A second transit labour dispute in six years has the City of Kelowna rethinking its contract with service provider First Transit.
Incumbent mayoral candidate Colin Basran said there have been discussions with BC Transit about not rolling over the current contract next year.
“As a result of conversations we’ve had with BC Transit, that will not be happening,” said Basran. “We have started conversations with the transport minister on what a new service delivery model may look like for our community.”
Basran made his comments at a news conference (Oct. 5) called by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1722 announcing it was entering binding arbitration to try and solve its current dispute with First Transit.
One possibility might see BC Transit operate the Kelowna Regional Transit System, as it does in Victoria. Basran said there is no scenario where the city would run the transit system.
“That was a conversation that was had the last time we were in a labour dispute.”
Basran added his concern about a city-operated system is that half of the funding comes from BC Transit.
“We know that when cities take things over there tends to be a reduction in funding over time, and my fear would be that eventually, City of Kelowna residents would be on the hook for all the costs of transit.”
Basran said he has not had the opportunity to discuss a possible regional model with Lake Country, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, and Peachland, but added it is a topic that will be covered.
ATU Local 1772 President Al Perissini said the union will not give up the fight to get rid of privatization.
“This system is broken and it needs to be fixed and we will continue our fight to fix it,” he said.
First Transit is an American company, which in turn is owned by EQT, a global investment group based in Sweden. BC Transit contracts First Transit to operate systems in several areas of the province.