Transit employees set to hold strike vote on October 10

Transit union employees will hold a strike vote this Thursday — a decision that, if passed, could have major impacts on students who commute to campus.

Talks between Unifor, the union that represents 5,000 transit workers across the Lower Mainland including bus drivers and Seabus operators, and Coast Mountain Bus Company, a Translink subsidiary, broke off on October 3.

The vote on whether to strike will be held on Thursday, October 10. Unifor is scheduled to resume negotiations with Coast Mountain in mid-October following the vote where further decisions on the next steps will be made.

“Over the past several weeks, Coast Mountain Bus Company and Unifor Locals 111 and 2200 have been working hard to renew their Collective Agreement. The parties have stepped away from the bargaining table to determine their next steps,” said Translink in a written statement to The Ubyssey.

“We don’t anticipate any disruption to service at this time. Coast Mountain Bus Company remains committed to reaching an acceptable negotiated settlement.”

Some key negotiation issues include wages, benefits and working conditions, specifically break hours and recovery times for drivers in between trips.

“Months of talks have failed to produce any meaningful mandate to address wages, benefits and working conditions,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a media release. “Our members have been working without a contract since March 31 and Coast Mountain has still to come to the table with an offer that addresses the key issues.”

The last time transit workers went on strike was in 2001. The strike lasted for nearly four months and was resolved when the provincial government stepped in to force the striking employees back to work.

UBC students, staff and faculty commuting to campus in 2001 were left with few options, and many resorted to carpooling, biking or walking.

According to Matthew Ramsey, UBC media relations’ director of university affairs, the university is keeping tabs on the situation to update students, staff and faculty on potential transit disruptions.

But due to “financial, logistical and labour considerations,” UBC will be unable to provide alternate transportation and encourages those who could be affected to carpool or cycle to campus.

“UBC is aware of transit contract negotiations underway. We know many in our community rely on public transit to get to and from the Vancouver campus and we appreciate a potential service disruption is of concern,” reads the written statement to The Ubyssey.

“We’ll be monitoring this situation and will keep students, faculty and staff updated if there is a service disruption that affects transit to campus.”

Transit usage experienced record ridership in 2018 which has led to frequent bus overcrowding. Four of the ten busiest bus routes from 2018 stop at UBC, according to data from Translink.

All parties are hopeful a deal will be reached soon.

“Our members know that the public relies on them and it is our sincere hope that Coast Mountain comes back with a serious offer to avoid inconvenience to transit riders,” said Unifor Local 2200 President Mike Smith.