Public transit users have a little more time to figure out an alternate form of transportation.
The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1722, served 72 hour strike notice Thursday, after contract talks ground to a halt and were in a position to take job action as of Sunday. They’re waiting, however, for the membership to weigh in on the deal that triggered the strike notice.
That will be done Tuesday night, said Scott Lovell, president of ATU local 1722.
“Then at that point we will present a strike action plan and the membership will judge what they are comfortable with,” he said.
“We regret we may have to withdraw our services, but we must take action due to the inability of First Canada to negotiate a fair collective agreement with us.”
The 217 transit workers in the Central Okanagan have been without a contract since April 1 and the Lovell said they were close to reaching a deal Wednesday night, then an offer from First Canada that didn’t meet even their most basic needs came in and that triggered job action.
“We are not being treated fairly, or like drivers in anywhere else in B.C.” said Lovell. “It’s embarrassing and sad.”
One of the main sticking points in contract negotiations has to do with what he calls a “bus is a bus” system.
In other cities, like Victoria, the size of the bus doesn’t affect wages. Locally, if a driver is assigned to drive a smaller community bus, he or she is paid about $4 per hour less while driving the smaller bus, despite licensing requirements being the same.
“It’s incredibly unfair,” said Lovell, adding that First Canada didn’t even touch that issue with their latest contract offer.
Nor did they offer much in the way of wage increases.
“We are being paid about 15 per cent less than what they make in the Lower Mainland and when you add in the pension we don’t get that puts us at another 10 to 12 per cent less than them — and we have a similar cost of living,” he said.
Lovell added that local drivers aren’t asking for parity with their counterparts in other areas of the province, rather just a raise of 2.5 per cent, which was also denied.
In September, 92 per cent of the Local 1722 of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s membership voted in favour of strike action.