Canada Line workers and operator begin negotiations to avoid strike action

·2 min read

The union representing Canada Line transit workers in Vancouver began negotiations with Canada Line operator Protrans B.C. on Sunday, after issuing a 72-hour strike notice to the company on Friday afternoon.

The strike notice came after four days of mediation last week and months of negotiations in 2020, in which the union says no significant progress was made.

"We will stay at the table right up to the very last minute, if necessary and beyond as long as those talks are constructive," B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU) president Stephanie Smith told CBC News.

"We don't feel that what we're asking is outrageous."

Workers are asking the company for wage parity — the BCGEU says Canada Line workers make three per cent less than other SkyTrain workers. Smith said workers want paid sick days to increase from four per year to eight.

"If nothing else, this pandemic has shown us that people need adequate sick time so that they don't go to work sick and infect others," Smith said.

The 182 workers represented by the BCGEU have been working without a contract since Dec. 31, 2019, and in November, workers voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action.

In a statement on Friday, Protrans B.C. said it remains committed to working on a fair agreement, and service updates would be provided in coming days.

If a settlement can't be reached before 4 p.m. Monday, workers will be in a position to go on strike.

"The Canada Line runs because of the work of our membership, so, yeah, we obviously understand that actioning a strike vote in that manner would really impact the ability of Canada Line to run," Smith said.

"Our members take that very, very seriously. Tactics and strategies around what that job action will look like will be determined by the committee."