Gavin McGarrigle, the western regional director of Unifor, calls for the Coast Mountain Bus Company to up wages and improve break time for bus operators and maintenance workers. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

Bargaining to resume in Metro Vancouver transit strike as bus driver overtime ban looms

Both sides might be headed back to the table to prevent new overtime ban

Both sides in the Metro Vancouver transit dispute have said they will return to the bargaining table Wednesday in hopes of avoiding more job action.

The news came Tuesday after Unifor, which represents 5,000 transit workers, said bus drivers will begin refusing overtime on Friday if a deal is not reached.

Now in its 12th day, a uniform ban continues for bus drivers and an overtime ban for maintenance workers, resulting in several cancelled SeaBus trips every day. TransLink announced six Seabus cancellations for Tuesday.

Gavin McGarrigle, the western regional director of Unifor, said the bus driver overtime ban could disrupt 10 to 15 per cent of the system.

McGarrigle questioned why the Coast Mountain Bus Company had not “even moved a comma” in wage offers.

“Ticketed skilled trade workers with Red Seal qualifications are paid vastly different if they work on bus equipment instead of SkyTrain equipment,” he told a news conference at Unifor’s New Westminster headquarters.

He said the company has not explained why they compare TransLink and CMBC executive compensation to Toronto’s system, but won’t do the same for the workers.

Citing a photo circling on social media of a bus driver’s break room, McGarrigle said the microwave installed right near the toilet showed the poor working conditions and lack of break time that the union wants addressed.

TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews said the photo was of just a bathroom, and CMBC did not intend for it to be used as a place to prepare food.

“There are 53 ‘comfort stations’ around the [transit] system. Thirty-five of them are full on break rooms with kitchens. The rest of them are just bathrooms,” Drews said.

She confirmed that bus operators are able to access a full break room at least once during their route.

At an unrelated news conference in Richmond the same day, Premier John Horgan said he was “confident that the parties… understand that the travelling public would prefer to see free collective bargaining work. And that’s our position as well.”

READ MORE: Buses cancelled on busy routes in Metro Vancouver

READ MORE: TransLink disputes severity of bus delays caused by transit strike


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