Transit workers vote 99 per cent in favour of strike mandate

In an all-day vote held on October 10, transit workers voted 99 per cent in favour of implementing a strike mandate.

The strike vote comes after bargaining for a new collective agreement between Unifor, the union that represents more than 5,000 shuttle, SeaBus and maintenance workers, and Coast Mountain Bus Company, a TransLink subsidiary, broke off on October 3.

Under the BC Labour Relations Code, the strike mandate will be in effect for 90 days. If needed, the union will provide a 72-hour strike notice. So far the notice has not been given and service has not been disrupted.

UBC also posted a notice on their website clarifying that strike activity has not yet taken place and the union employees must give 72-hours' notice beforehand.

“It is important to note that although the union has voted in favour of strike action, actual strike activity cannot occur until the union provides 72-hours’ notice to their employer, TransLink,” reads the statement.

The notice also confirms that if strike activity does take place, classes and normal university operations will continue as planned.

Since the implementation of the last collective agreement, TransLink has seen record ridership which has led to frequent overcrowding.

Union employees have been working without a contract since March 31 of this year. Some of the key negotiation items included wages, benefits and working conditions, especially break times in between trips.

“The system overload is impacting breaks and recovery time in between trips as drivers struggle to maintain service,” said Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle in a media release. “The end result is overworked drivers and that’s a serious safety issue that must be dealt with at the table.”

Negotiations between Unifor and Coast Mountain are scheduled to resume on October 15, where decisions about the next steps will be made.

According to Unifor Local 111 President Balbir Mann the strike possibility is not being taken lightly by transit workers.

“We will continue to negotiate in good faith but we are prepared to take action if it proves necessary to obtain a fair contract that will allow our members to continue to deliver award-winning service to the public,” Mann said.

In a previous written statement to The Ubyssey, Matthew Ramsey, UBC media relations’ director of university affairs, confirmed that UBC would be unable to provide commuter students, faculty and staff with alternative transportation to campus should the strike mandate take effect. This is due to financial, logistical and labour constraints.

“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 statement from October 7.

“We would instead encourage anyone affected by a potential service disruption, and those who are able, to seek out friends and colleagues and consider carpooling or cycling to and from campus.”

2001 marked the last time that transit workers went on strike. The strike lasted for nearly four months until the provincial government passed legislation to force the employees back to work.

This is an evolving story and more information will be added as it becomes available.

This article has been updated to include a statement from UBC.