14 SeaBus sailings to be cancelled Wednesday as transit workers' job action continues

A total of 14 SeaBus trips are expected to be scrapped on Wednesday, according to TransLink, as a regional transit dispute over wages and working conditions is set to enter its sixth day.

The transit authority announced the expected cancellations late Tuesday afternoon, when negotiations were still deadlocked, despite politicians' push for a resolution between Unifor members and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.

All of Wednesday's planned cancellations are between the peak hours of 7:10 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. or 4:10 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.

Three SeaBus round trips between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver were cancelled for Tuesday's afternoon rush hour as well.

The job action, which began Friday, has so far led to dozens of cancelled sailings on the SeaBus route between downtown Vancouver and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.

Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) maintenance staff are also declining overtime and bus drivers are refusing to wear uniforms as part of the job action.

There has been no impact on regular bus service thus far, though Unifor, the union representing 5,000 workers in Metro Vancouver, said that will change by mid-week if an agreement is not reached with CMBC, which operates buses and SeaBus on behalf of TransLink.

Unifor lead negotiator Gavin McGarrigle said that staff refusing overtime means buses are not being maintained as usual and around 150 spare, road-ready buses are rapidly being deployed by TransLink across Metro Vancouver.

He predicted the company will run out of spare buses as early as Wednesday, prompting route delays or cancellations.

Ben Nelms/CBC

Last-ditch negotiations to avert a strike fell apart between the union and CMBC. The union wants an extra $608 million in wages, benefits and improvements to working conditions over 10 years. 

On Monday, Metro Vancouver mayors waded into the dispute with a statement urging the union and company back to the bargaining table to avoid a full-blown strike. Mayors' council chair Jonathan Coté said some of the union's demands, particularly around wages, were impractical.

Ben Nelms/CBC

The last full-scale transit strike in Metro Vancouver lasted 123 days in 2001. In the end, the provincial government ordered staff back to work.

Transit use has risen sharply since then. Today, one in five commuters use public transit — double the number who did during the last strike 18 years ago.

TransLink data released in April said its ridership reached an all-time high in 2018.