Metro Vancouver transit strike prompts cancellations as premier won't intervene

VANCOUVER — Commuters in Metro Vancouver face more cancellations on Wednesday as talks remain stalled in an ongoing transit strike and Premier John Horgan says the province will not intervene.

About 5,000 transit drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance staff began limited job action last week, including a ban on overtime by maintenance workers.

The ban had an almost immediate effect on SeaBus service connecting Vancouver and the North Shore, resulting in sailing cancellations that continued Tuesday with three afternoon round-trips scrubbed.

TransLink later announced that 14 sailings in the morning and afternoon on Wednesday would be cancelled as well.

Horgan told a Vancouver news conference that "collective bargaining should run its course" and his government has "no plans to interfere" in the impasse between Unifor and Coast Mountain Bus Company, which bargains on behalf of TransLink. 

Gavin McGarrigle, lead negotiator for Unifor, has said the union is still considering its next steps but could extend the overtime ban to bus drivers, something he believes would immediately impact service by 10 to 15 per cent.

Wages, benefits and working conditions are key issues and Mike McDaniel, president of the Coast Mountain Bus Company, says the company has offered wage increases of 12.2 per cent to maintenance workers and 9.6 per cent to drivers over four years.

No new talks are scheduled, although New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote, the chair of the Mayor's Council on Metro Vancouver transit, called Monday for a mediator to step into the dispute to head off further disruptions.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said that nothing gets resolved as long as Coast Mountain Bus Company and Unifor negotiators refuse to talk.

"We have to bargain this. We have to do something that, at the end of the day, is affordable and we have to make sure that taxpayers believe we're providing good value for money."

(The Canadian Press, News1130)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2019.

The Canadian Press