Transit strike in Sea-to-Sky region could end as union, company reach tentative deal

·2 min read
Workers picketed at the B.C. Transit depot in Whistler, pictured here, and another depot in Squamish for months. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Workers picketed at the B.C. Transit depot in Whistler, pictured here, and another depot in Squamish for months. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Bus service in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton could soon be back on the road as a tentative deal has been reached between the employer and union.

Unifor, in a Friday evening statement, said it has signed a tentative agreement with B.C. Transit contractor PW Transit, which runs bus service in the region, following mediated talks.

The union says its bargaining committee is "unanimously" recommending workers vote to accept the deal. A vote will take place May 30.

The key issues in the strike were wages and benefits with the 80 striking drivers and other workers seeking wage parity with counterparts in nearby Metro Vancouver.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Unifor said details of the agreement reached Friday would be released after ratification.

PW Transit confirmed the tentative deal in a statement of its own.

It said it was pleased to have a reached a deal and said details of service resumption "will be released shortly."

CBC has asked B.C. Transit for comment.

Job action began in January

The drivers went on strike Jan. 29 and the 119 days of job action have created headaches in the region.

People faced huge problems getting around without the buses. Many workers are lower-wage, employed in tourism and hospitality-related jobs for the ski hills, bars, restaurants, hotels and short-term rental homes that draw tourists in from around the world.

Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said hitchhiking became more common, leading to safety concerns.

The area's MLA, Liberal Jordan Sturdy, called on Labour Minister Harry Bains to do more to end the strike.

Shawn Foss/CBC
Shawn Foss/CBC

In the Legislature two weeks ago, he said Bains should put the parties into binding arbitration. The company had sought arbitration previously, to the ire of the union.

Bains dismissed the suggestion, saying mediated talks were the answer. He also met with both parties separately and urged further negotiations.

The longest transit strike in B.C. history lasted 123 days in 2001 before workers were legislated back to work.

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