Metro Vancouver transit union returns to bargaining table

The union representing Coast Mountain Bus Company workers in Metro Vancouver says it will return to the bargaining table, while threatening more job action if the companies fail to co-operate.

Unifor representatives held a news conference in New Westminster Tuesday morning, about a week-and-a-half into the union’s job action, to talk about the next steps in the ongoing labour dispute. In the conference, Gavin McGarrigle, western regional director, said Unifor remains “deeply skeptical” of the motives of TransLink and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.

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But he said the union was still looking to sit down with the employers’ negotiators Wednesday morning with hopes of reaching a settlement this week.

If an agreement is not reached this week, McGarrigle said Unifor will instruct bus drivers to join maintenance workers in denying overtime work on Friday. The union will consider further days of the overtime ban for drivers next week if the lack of a settlement continues, McGarrigle said.

The return to the bargaining table this week comes after a couple of requests from Coast Mountain to resume bargaining last week, which were rejected by the union.

In his statement, McGarrigle noted the TransLink workers represented by MoveUP and SkyTrain workers represented by CUPE were still in bargaining and “could take a strike vote at any time.”

“Members in both groups are telling our members on the ground that they are ready to step up their fight, also,” McGarrigle said.

McGarrigle took aim at chief executive salaries at both Coast Mountain and TransLink, which he said could rise 18 and 25 per cent respectively in the coming years. He said officials set the salaries based on comparisons to transit executives in other jurisdictions.

“TransLink workers are asking for the same apples-to-apples comparison,” McGarrigle said.

It’s unclear exactly how much refusing overtime would impact bus schedules, but TransLink has provided regular updates on how the same action has impacted SeaBus sailings.

On Tuesday, for instance, TransLink said six sailings between Waterfront in Vancouver and Lonsdale in North Vancouver were cancelled as a result of the job action.

McGarrigle took offence from TransLink’s statement that the union walked away from the bargaining table, saying the transit authority “failed” to acknowledge its own part in the dispute. He said TransLink refused, during the 72-hour strike notice period, “to change even one comma” from its original position.

That included, he said, a refusal to offer “even one cent more.”

Coast Mountain president Michael McDaniel said the company “welcomes the union’s return to the bargaining table.”

“We are encouraged by this development and look forward to reaching an agreement which works for all parties involved,” McDaniel said in a statement.

“All of us are committed to providing quality transit services to our customers every day of the year. I’m optimistic that we can find common ground to ensure this can continue.”

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