SkyTrain staff vote 96.8% in favour of job action

Eight days of mediation are set to help resolve the dispute

The station at East Broadway and Commerical Drive is the busiest in the SkyTrain network | Chung Chow

What happened: SkyTrain workers in Local 7000 of CUPE voted 96.8 per cent in favour of job action, with an 87.3-per-cent turnout, the union revealed November 21.

Why this matters: Unifor, which represents bus drivers and maintenance workers and has plans for a full-scale walkout on November 27, 28 and 29. Any escalation of job action on the SkyTrain system will only add to region-wide chaos. 

CUPE representatives, however, have offered to bargain with the employer for four days starting Friday. A further eight days of mediation are set to begin next Thursday.

“Mediation is a very important and productive way for parties to resolve their differences in any labour negotiation,” said Michael Ladrak, who is president of the employer, British Columbia Rapid Transit Co.

“While CUPE [Local] 7000 members have passed a vote which gives them the option of taking job action, at this time the union has not given any indication of providing a strike notice.  There is currently no disruption to SkyTrain service.”

Issues are said to include wages, staffing levels, required overtime and issues related to the sick plan for about 900 attendants, control operators, administration, maintenance and technical staff.

Canada Line will not be affected because it is operated by Protrans BC Operations Ltd. which is not affiliated with TransLink.

Protrans has a collective bargaining relationship and current collective agreement with the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union, according to a statement from Protrans.

"The collective agreement expires at the end of the year," Protrans said. "The parties expect to commence bargaining for a renewal agreement early in the New Year. We look forward to successfully bargaining a renewal agreement.”

West Coast Express will also not be affected by job action by SkyTrain workers or bus drivers.

This is because TransLink has four companies that operate separately:

•Coast Mountain Bus Co., which operates the buses;

•British Columbia Rapid Transit Co., which runs SkyTrain;

•West Coast Express, which runs its namesake train service; and

•Transit Police, which employ security personnel who work in the transit system.

In the Unifor job action, representatives have so far rejected employer Coast Mountain Bus Co.'s invitations to accept mediation. Premier John Horgan on November 21 urged both sides to get back to the bargaining table. He was asked about mediation, which his government could impose, but he reiterated that he believes that free collective bargaining is the way forward.

CMBC has offered wage hikes of 9.6% for approximately 3,800 bus drivers and 12.2% for about 1,000 maintenance workers over four years. Unifor wants a 15.2% increase for its bus drivers, and a 16.7% increase for its maintenance workers, compounded over four years.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom