The recent transit strike saw over 180 supervisors from the union CUPE 4500 protest against their employer and TransLink branch, the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC). The union ceased all bus and SeaBus services across Metro Vancouver, causing massive travel disruptions for commuters.
After their agreement expired in 2022, workers and the CMBC attempted to develop a new deal. After no settlement was reached, the union started their strike on Jan. 6, issuing a notice three days prior with a overtime ban. The job action intensified on Jan. 22 as a final push to change wages and overtime conditions.
Workers organized picket lines across transit service locations in various areas of the Lower Mainland such as Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, and Port Coquitlam. Other modes of transit were reportedly still open to the public during the strike, including the SkyTrain and Langley community shuttles.
Aside from walking or cycling to their destinations, commuters had to rely on carpooling or TransLink’s park and ride service, a reality that has been acknowledged by the union.
“CUPE 4500 members are proud of the job we do for our passengers. Like them, our families and friends depend on transit too. We regret these disruptions and the challenges this will cause for the people we serve every day,” said union spokesperson Liam O’Neill in a press release.
In response to the strike, the CMBC also expressed regret for the struggles travellers experienced from a closed transit system. The company’s spokesperson Mike Killeen said they welcome the chance to collaborate with the union for a solution.
“[The strike] is an enormous inconvenience for people and we would strongly encourage the union to come back to the table and get this sorted out,” he said in an interview with the CBC.
CMBC’s union is demanding a 25 per cent wage increase over the next three years for certain workers. The spokesperson for CMBC said the wage increase is unreasonable and unrealistic. However, Killeen said the proposed offer is consistent with what other CMBC unions and public sector workers have settled on in the past year, which was 12 and 13.5 per cent over three years.
CTV News said that among travellers affected by the strike were post-secondary school students and faculty. Despite the job action, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University moved students to remote learning. However, students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and Kwantlen Polytechnic University still had to commute to and from campuses since classes remained on-site.
Buses and SeaBuses returned to normal on Jan. 24, but the CBC reported B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains will bring in mediator Vince Ready to end the lingering tensions between transit workers and the CMBC.
“We know the pathway for resolving this dispute. That is the parties have to work out their differences at the bargaining table. It is their responsibility to make a deal and I urge them to get back to the table as quickly as possible,” Bains said.
Should negotiations fail after nearly a week of facilitating discourse, Ready will then issue non-binding recommendations by Feb. 2. A timeframe of five days will be given to both sides of the dispute to evaluate these proposals. The union said they’re prepared to continue the strike for another three days if there’s no agreement with CMBC by Feb. 3.
While Ready was trying to prevent a prolonged strike, the B.C. Labour Relations Board will host hearings between CUPE 4500 and CMBC to further discuss the job action. The hearing is scheduled for Monday and will explore the union’s claim that the CMBC tried to undermine the strike’s impact.
If the board validates the case, workers plan to extend the strike by arranging picket lines at SkyTrain stations, along with buses and SeaBuses. Only a few buses would be unaffected by the strike.