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Metro Vancouver bus union threatens work stoppage if wage demands not met

Transit supervisors and maintenance workers began refusing overtime in Metro Vancouver on Jan. 6 as part of job action initiated by the CUPE Local 4500 union. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Transit supervisors and maintenance workers began refusing overtime in Metro Vancouver on Jan. 6 as part of job action initiated by the CUPE Local 4500 union. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

The union representing 180 transit supervisors in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are threatening to bring bus service across the region to a halt if demands for a new collective agreement are not met.

On Thursday, CUPE Local 4500, which represents supervisors, engineers, maintenance and communication workers said the workers would walk off the job on Monday for 48 hours if demands to address wages and workload were not met by the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC).

CMBC is a subsidiary of TransLink, the Metro Vancouver region's transit authority. The company employs almost 6,000 people in total, mostly bus drivers, according to the TransLink website.

"We regret the disruptions passengers will be experiencing, but we are out of options," CUPE 4500 spokesperson Liam O'Neill said at a Thursday press conference in Burnaby, about a possible work stoppage.

"Unless Coast Mountain commits to ensure transit supervisors get the same wages as others doing similar work, and take our workload issues seriously, we are left with no choice."

The previous collective agreement between the company and union members expired in October 2022.

If the 180 workers were to go on strike, the union says it would mean the suspension of all buses and the SeaBus for the two-day withdrawal. They are already refusing overtime after their 72-hour strike notice expired earlier this month.

Liam O'Neill with CUPE says that transit supervisors deserve wage parity with the rest of the workers in the Metro Vancouver transit system.
Liam O'Neill with CUPE says that transit supervisors deserve wage parity with the rest of the workers in the Metro Vancouver transit system.

Liam O'Neill with CUPE says that transit supervisors deserve wage parity with the rest of the workers in the Metro Vancouver transit system. (CBC)

Coast Mountain Bus Company president Michael McDaniel said in a statement that it had made the union the same wage offer given to thousands of other employees in the TransLink system.

"It's disappointing that the union representing approximately 180 transit supervisors is threatening to disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the bus and SeaBus each day over a wage dispute," he said.

"If the union proceeds with picket lines, there could be major impacts to our services up to a full shutdown of the SeaBus and bus system."

Coast Mountain provided the union's demands, and the company's offers, in its statement. According to the transit authority, CUPE 4500 is asking for a wage increase between 20 per cent and 25 per cent for all of the positions it represents.

In a statement, however, CUPE 4500 said the union has never asked for a 25 per cent wage increase across the board — but wage parity instead.

"The additional annual cost to Coast Mountain for our wage proposal is less than 0.05 per cent of Coast Mountain's 2024 budget for wages, salaries and benefits," O'Neil said in the statement. "It's essentially a rounding error and yet they still refuse to deal with the wage inequity that exists."

Coast Mountain Bus Company spokesperson Mike Killeen says wage demands being made by CUPE Local 4500 are unreasonable and unrealistic.
Coast Mountain Bus Company spokesperson Mike Killeen says wage demands being made by CUPE Local 4500 are unreasonable and unrealistic.

Coast Mountain Bus Company spokesperson Mike Killeen had said earlier this week that wage demands being made by CUPE Local 4500 are unreasonable and unrealistic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

An attempt at mediation failed and bargaining broke off in early January. The union issued a 72-hour strike notice on Jan. 3. On Jan. 6 the union imposed a ban on overtime starting Saturday as a first level of job action.

CBC News has contacted TransLink for comment.