B.C. Transit strike forces multiple run cancellations

Unionized drivers halt all overtime work in response to breakdown of contract talks

Transit commuters got their first taste of a partial transit drivers’ strike Monday, which cancelled 19 runs on five bus routes.

Bus drivers have indefinitely halted all overtime work in response to a breakdown of contract negotiations between B.C. Transit and Canadian Auto Workers’ local 333 Thursday night.

University of Victoria students bore a significant portion of the service disruption. Ten of the affected runs were either going to or leaving from the university.

“It puts students in a tough position,” said Lucia Orser, director of external relations for the University of Victoria Students’ Society.

Students are already being passed over at the bus stops in the morning due to buses hitting their maximum capacity limits. The work-to-rule action will only make the problem worse, Orser said.

“It could mean missed classes,” she said. “But at the same time we support (the drivers’) rights for ongoing job action.”

The contract dispute centres around a proposal to replace the current fleet of community shuttle buses with a new fleet of five slightly larger shuttle buses made in China.

Community shuttles are used on smaller routes, such as through James Bay and on the West Shore. Community shuttle drivers require less training and are paid $5 less an hour. Conventional buses require a class 2 licence, while smaller community shuttles require a class 4 licence.

The union has two main concerns surrounding the proposed new shuttle, called the Vicinity. First, the proposed new shuttles can hold up to 39 passengers (including 16 standing passengers) compared to the current shuttle, which can hold 23 sitting passengers and no standing passengers. The union argues drivers of the new, larger shuttles should have the same training and pay as drivers of conventional buses.

“No one other than a full-time conventional operator with a Class 2 license has ever operated a bus in the Victoria system with a capacity of more than 24 passengers,” said union president Ben Williams.

He said B.C. Transit insisted on the unrestricted right to use the shuttle buses for the Victoria fleet.

B.C. Transit spokesperson Meribeth Burton said union fears are unfounded, and that the number of community shuttles won’t increase and they won’t be used on larger, busier routes.

The union’s second concern surrounds the sourcing of the shuttles. It alleges B.C. Transit selected the shuttles by direct award contract. It has called on the Auditor General of B.C. to conduct an independent review of the decision not to issue a request for proposals for new buses.

Burton said B.C. Transit has been testing the shuttles for two years.

“We think it offers better comfort and safety for our customers and drivers,” she said.

The Greater Victoria Transit Commission has not yet approved the purchase of these new shuttles for Greater Victoria. B.C. Transit has purchased the shuttles for several jurisdictions in other communities of B.C.

By press time Monday, there were no plans to resume negotiation talks.

For updates on cancelled runs, check transitbc.com, under ‘Customer Alerts.’

rholmen@vicnews.com

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read