Transit union representatives turn down proposal of increased wages and break time

Update: 4:30 p.m., This article has been updated to confirm Unifor will escalate job action to include an overtime ban for bus operators starting Friday, November 15.

Transit workers and their employer, Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC), continue to sit at an impasse as the union refused CMBC’s offer on breaks and wages today.

Unifor — the union that represents around 5,000 bus, SeaBus and maintenance workers — and CMBC, a TransLink subsidiary, have been negotiating a new deal for the past several months.

Transit workers have been working without a contract since August 31.

The parties broke off negotiations on October 3 and Unifor started strike action on November 1 but returned to the negotiations on November 12. So far strike action has only consisted of a uniform and overtime ban, though Unifor warned the strike will escalate if an agreement is not reached soon.

On November 12, Unifor said they would increase strike action with a one-day overtime ban for bus drivers on Friday, November 15. On Thursday, the union informed CMBC they would escalate job action on Friday to include the bus driver's overtime ban.

They plan to continue the overtime ban next week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with the possibility of further overtime bans going forward.

In a media release, CMBC said they estimate the escalated job action could reduce bus service up to ten per cent.

“This job action will be difficult to predict for our customers. Some routes will have gaps in service and there will likely be overcrowding,” reads the statement.

CMBC called their offer “historic” for its increases to wages and recovery time, in another press release.

The proposal includes 40 minutes of recovery time for each shift and operators would be paid double for recovery time they don’t receive. Operators will also be able to take breaks to use the washroom whenever necessary.

CMBC also proposed wage increases with the top annual wage increase for operators increasing by $6,100 over the next four years and $10,000 over the next four years for skilled trades workers.

Unifor rejected the offer, asking for higher wages. But CMBC claims their proposal is more competitive than that of most public sector employees.

“CMBC is asking the union to be more realistic about wage demands, given that our current offer far exceeds public sector settlements in British Columbia,” wrote CMBC in the release.

Unifor released a video explaining the challenges Transit workers face. According to the video, overcrowding due to increased transit usage means most drivers don’t have time to take breaks in between trips.

“Translink seems content to play games while tens of thousands of transit passengers’ lives are impacted daily,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a media release.

“Transit workers want to sign a new contract, but Translink isn’t interested in anything remotely fair.”

CMBC President Michael McDaniel said higher wages would force the company to compromise customer experience.

“Wage demands over and above the increases we have already offered will come at the expense of services for customers. We need a deal that’s realistic. It’s time for the union to be willing to compromise,” said Michael McDaniel in the release.

For now, talks have been discontinued.

UBC has been posting notices to their website to update students, staff and faculty who could be impacted by a potential strike. The university has said classes and business operations will continue as normal and is advising commuters to plan for a longer commute.