On Thursday, October 10, members of the UNIFOR Union met for a strike vote. The results of the TransLink strike vote saw an overwhelming 99 percent of members agreeing to go ahead with the strike during a meeting at the Aria Banquet Hall in Surrey. After months of negotiations between UNIFOR and the Coast Mountain Bus Company, negotiations broke off on Friday, October 4. UNIFOR members agreed to meet yesterday to hold the strike vote and the response is clear.
“Our members take the responsibility of providing safe, dependable public transportation seriously and they’re asking Coast Mountain to properly recognize the dedication and effort that the workers put in day in and day out to properly deliver it,” said UNIFOR National President Jerry Dias, in a media statement.
UNIFOR represents more than 5,000 workers at Coast Mountain Bus Company, with UNIFOR Local 111 representing transit operators in conventional and community shuttle and Unifor Local 2200 representing maintenance and SeaBus workers.
TransLink ridership has been going up a lot in the last two years. There was an 18 percent increase between 2016 and 2018. Plus, the number of buses that are overcrowded went up 36 percent during that same period.
This significant increase in ridership has strained resources and made working conditions for TransLink bus and SeaBus employees very difficult according to UNIFOR members. Still, Translink was recently voted one of the best North American transit systems.
“The system overload is impacting breaks and recovery time in between trips as drivers struggle to maintain service,” said Unifor Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle, in a press release.
“The end result is overworked drivers and that’s a serious safety issue that must be dealt with at the table.”
The workers have been without a contract since Sunday, March 31, 2019. Negotiations between the union and the company are set to continue on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
The strike mandate can take place anytime within a period of 90 days under the BC Labour Relations code. The union will provide a 72-hour notice of strike action.
“There is still an opportunity for Coast Mountain to do the right thing and to come back to negotiations with an offer that addresses the outstanding issues,” said Mike Smith, Unifor Local 2200 President.
“Our members know that the public relies on them and it is our sincere hope that Coast Mountain comes back with a serious offer to avoid inconvenience to transit riders,” continued Smith.
Narcity Media reached out to Coast Mountain Bus Company for a comment and will update this story.