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Chilliwack Chamber calls on labour minister to take action to end transit strike

‘No movement toward reaching agreement to get 213 people back to work’
More than 100 people showed up for a transit rally at Chilliwack’s Five Corners on April 12, 2023 in support of striking CUPE 561 workers. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce has written the B.C. Labour Minister with an urgent request that the use of a mediator be mandated to end the transit strike that’s been dragging on since March.

With this latest letter, the Chilliwack Chamber has joined Chilliwack council, FVRD, and other local governments in calling for decisive action.

“Many of our local Chilliwack businesses, organizations and service providers have reached out to the Chilliwack Chamber to inform us of the impact this strike has on their employees ability to get to and from work,” writes Leanna Kemp, executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber, to the minister.

RELATED: Chilliwack asks for minister to assign mediator

The dispute between First Transit, and the 213 workers of CUPE 561, is currently at a standstill over the sticking points of higher wages and a pension.

“We have also heard from several our member businesses who are experiencing a significant drop in customer counts and sales directly related to the strike,” the Chamber letter continued.

“This transit interruption, coupled with the increasing costs to small businesses; such as an increase in paid sick days and the recent increase to minimum wage, is creating hardships for our local economy.”

The community has struggled through three years of a global pandemic and with the threat of recession looming, they need to support the heart of any thriving community, its local businesses.

“The Chilliwack Chamber is calling on you, Minister Bains, to mandate the use of a mediator to this collective bargaining process, which since the strike occurred on March 20, 2023, there has been no movement towards reaching an agreement that will get 213 people back to work and allow our community members who are both consumers and employees, get back to regular activities that support our business community.”

Minister Harry Bains told Black Press last month that he had in fact reached out to both sides in the dispute to “remind them of their responsibility” to get back to the bargaining table — to no avail.

Bains said any mediation would be undertaken at the B.C. Labour Relations Board level in any case, but underlined that he had offered the parties mediation services.

“Mediation can’t help until they both agree they are ready for mediation,” he said.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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