West Vancouver's Blue Bus drivers and mechanics can issue a strike notice at any time after their union voted 96.5 per cent in favour of rejecting the District of West Vancouver's final contract offer.
The Amalgamated Transit Union local 134 and the district have been negotiating for more than a year but remain at an impasse over nonwage related items in the contract.
Both parties have agreed to a wage increase of zero per cent in 2012, two per cent in 2013 and two per cent in 2014, similar to a deal reached between Coast Mountain Bus Company and its unionized staff earlier this year. Exactly what the two sides remain separated over remains unclear.
In a press release following the strike vote on Friday, the union stated the dispute is over "concessions demanded on hours of work, holidays and other contract language." The district, meanwhile, blames the union for asking that "additional cost items be added to the offer package while offering no middle ground," according to its press release.
Both sides declined to offer any more detail on the dispute.
By law, the union must give the district at least 72 hours notice before taking any job action, though there is hope that can be avoided.
"We would hope that we wouldn't have to issue it to get to the bargaining table and we would hope we wouldn't have to take any service disruption at all. Certainly we don't want the riders inconvenienced in any way but at some point we have to get back to the table and talk about this," said Bill Tieleman, union spokesman, on Tuesday afternoon. "The appropriate thing right now is to wait to hear a response from West Vancouver management as to whether they'll return to bargaining to get this resolved. If they give us an unequivocal 'no,' we'll have to look at what options exist."
But district officials said their negotiators are also waiting - for the union to come back with a new proposal that is different from the one last left on the table.
"I am unaware of the union asking the district back to the bargaining table," said district spokesman Jeff McDonald. "They asked for and received our final offer and that's what they voted on. The district is open to further negotiations when the union is ready to consider a reasonable middle ground."
The Blue Bus does an average of 18,000 passenger trips per day on the district's fleet of 52 buses.
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