Lake Country transit workers say bus system should be run by municipalities

Striking transit workers set up information booth outside Lake Country municipal hall Tuesday

BC Transit employees Victor Hakanson

BC Transit employees Victor Hakanson

Members of the union representing B.C. Transit workers say the company they are working for is not bargaining in good faith and is urging residents as well as local politicians to get involved in the labour dispute.

Several members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722 set up an information booth outside of Lake Country municipal hall on Tuesday, handing out information to members of the public and asking for support in their battle for wage improvements and a better retirement package.

“Rather than set up a picket line and do the disruptive tactics to gain attention, we decided to only set up an information booth,” said bus driver Bill Scarrow, also a Lake Country councillor. “We didn’t want to  inhibit the flow of employees. We’re not asking our CUPE brothers and sisters that work here to cross the picket line. We are simply here to give information.”

Scarrow said the community of Lake Country hasn’t had the opportunity to learn what the union is fighting for and they are looking forward to providing their message to transit riders.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722 financial secretary Shane Curveon said what’s at the heart to the strike is the company’s refusal to pay drivers who drive smaller buses the same amount it pays drivers who drive larger buses. That despite a requirement all drivers have the same qualifications.

“This is not where we want to be this is where we have been forced to be,” said Curveon. “It didn’t matter what job action we would take, it was going to affect the public. Our members wanted a complete withdrawal of service.”

Transit service in the Central Okanagan is contracted to a company called First Canada. Bus drivers say they haven’t been contacted by the company since they walked out 13 days ago. However the company says it is willing to return to the bargaining table.

“We empathize with our customers as they struggle to make their way around without transit service,” said John Peck, Regional Vice President of First Canada Farwest region.The company has made a reasonable offer, similar to other existing contracts in other provincial centres and we remain willing and eager to return to the bargaining table with the union representing our valued employees.”

Union members at the Lake Country information booth called First Canada a multi-national corporation that takes profits out of the areas they work in and put the money into its head office, located in Scotland.

Driver and local politician Scarrow says it would be a better system if local municipalities actually ran transit service, pointing to cities such as Nelson and Nanaimo where transit is run by the municipality.