Transit workers still picketing in Central Okanagan

The Central Okanagan's transit strike is heading into its second week with nothing resolved

  • Nov. 21, 2016 8:00 a.m.

Robyn Rolke used to ride the bus for several hours a day, where she’d sort out her coursework and squeeze in some studying.

The Okanagan College student takes classes at both the Kelowna and Vernon campuses—in addition to working — and the commute offered the consistency needed to balance it all.

Now, however, she’s at the mercy of her parents, who are taking turns shuttling to her to classes and home between going to their own jobs. They, like her, are starting to bear the brunt of the labour dispute that sent bus drivers to the picket-line nearly two weeks ago.

“I chose to take a class in Kelowna because I knew the buses were somewhat reliable,” Rolke said.

“I’m incredibly frustrated by what’s happening…It doesn’t matter to me who’s to blame for this, but I’d appreciate it being resolved soon.”

The Central Okanagan’s transit strike looks far from being resolved with neither side announcing a return to the bargaining table.

It’s caused a great deal of community concern, and related complaints have led city hall to weigh in.

“We are putting pressure on First Canada and its employees to get back to negotiations and reach a resolution as soon as possible,” wrote Mayor Colin Basran made a statement late last week explaining their role in local transit.

“I have requested an appointment to speak with Transportation Minister Todd Stone about our concerns, and the city has been in daily contact with B.C. Transit officials, urging them to pressure both First Canada and its employees to help end this stalemate.”

Basran added that council has suggested transit service be made an essential service in the hopes some high-volume routes can be restored while negotiations are ongoing.

“There are no winners in a situation like this. This is certainly not something we want to see happen or continue for a long period of time,” said Basran.

No talks have been scheduled yet.

British Columbia Labour Relations Board determined late last week that it was illegal lfor Kelowna transit workers to be picketing at the Vernon transit yard.

The decision, on Nov.17,  has ordered the Amalgamated Transit Union  Local 1722 to cease and desist illegal picketing at or near First Canada’s Vernon facilities, where First Canada employees who are members of Unifor Local 114 work.

Local Union reps said they hadn’t been picketing, just handing out flyers.

“First Canada respects all of its employees and their right to take job action as part of collective bargaining. We are, however, relieved the illegal picket activity at our Vernon transit yard will cease and desist,” said John Peck, Regional Vice President of First Canada Farwest region.

“We empathize with our customers as they struggle to make their way around Kelowna without transit service. 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.”

Local transit workers have been without a contract since April 1 and the union  said they were close to reaching a deal a week before the strike, 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 president of ATU local 1722 Scott 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.

First Canada employs nearly 1,000 people (800 unionized) in 24 B.C. communities. First Canada has been contracted by BC Transit to provide services in the Kelowna region until 2022.

 

Just Posted

UBCO Heat teams unable to secure any wins against Mount Royal Cougars

The mens and womens volleyball and basketball teams went 0-4, but all have rematches Saturday night

Rockets held scoreless in loss against Red Deer

Rockets will look for some points in final game of road trip against Edmonton

New maintenance crew to look after Okanagan Connector

Acciona Infrastructure Maintenance Inc. will replace Argo Road Maintenance Inc. in 2019

New Lake Country arts council to request funds from district

The arts council will ask the district for $8,000 from 2019 to 2021

Your guide to winter light ups around the Okanagan

From Vernon to Summerland, with a stop in Kelowna, we’ve found some activities for you to enjoy

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

Most Read