Transit union threatens full system shutdown

Jan. 22 pegged as strike day, unless B.C. Transit returns to bargaining: union president

The union representing some 650 B.C. Transit employees will grind Greater Victoria’s public transportation network to a halt on Jan. 22 unless B.C. Transit returns to the bargaining table.

Ben Williams, president of Canadian Auto Workers local 333, said the union feels it’s the only way management will get the message.

“We’re hopeful that we can get a negotiated settlement without withdrawal,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is disrupt the riders in Greater Victoria, but it just doesn’t appear B.C. Transit is going to co-operate without us escalating the job action.”

The threat of a full, one-day shutdown of the transit system is the latest tactic in the union’s ongoing job action.

Drivers have indefinitely halted all overtime work, cancelling periodic bus service every day. As well, drivers continue to wear street clothes rather than uniforms while on the job.

Williams said the hope is that further job action will bring pressure on B.C. Transit from frustrated local politicians and the public to get return to the table and reach a settlement.

According to the union, the contract dispute centres around a proposal to replace the current fleet of community shuttle buses with five slightly larger shuttle buses – the Vicinity – made in China. Community shuttle drivers require less training and are paid $5.71 less an hour.

In recent interviews with the News, B.C. Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said the sticking point remains wage increases and benefits, which are not in line with the B.C. government’s net zero mandate.

A spokesperson for B.C. Transit was not immediately available.

CAW 333 represents bus drivers, trades and maintenance workers in Greater Victoria. Members have been without a contract since March 31, 2012.

– with files from Daniel Palmer and Roszan Holmen

kslavin@saanichnews.com