Photo by Jaana Björk
Last-minute talks set as Metro Vancouver transit strike looms for Wednesday
Published 2:33 PST, Mon November 25, 2019
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Last-minute contract talks have been scheduled for Tuesday with a transit strike facing commuters in Metro Vancouver later this week.
Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor's lead negotiator, said Monday the union is prepared to negotiate until midnight Wednesday and if no agreement is reached, a three-day strike will begin, affecting about 350,000 transit users.
Wages are one of the key issues in the dispute.
Labour Minister Harry Bains said he was hopeful the two sides can negotiate a settlement.
"We were urging them, every day, every chance we got, and finally they have agreed to get back to the bargaining table," Bains said at the legislature in Victoria. "I hope they will stay there until the deal is worked out."
Unifor has complained the latest offer isn't comparable to salaries in other major cities.
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says the last wage offer made to the union is based on market conditions.
McGarrigle said the union is prepared to compromise and its members don't expect to earn the wages paid to workers doing the same jobs in Toronto, but they would like to start narrowing the gap.
He said Unifor's national president, Jerry Dias, will join the negotiations.
The union is threatening to call a strike that would affect bus and sea bus ferry services from Wednesday to Friday.
Desmond said TransLink is looking for ways to increase access to drop-off points near its SkyTrain lines, which would not be affected by a strike.
Bains said the threat of a transit shutdown and the problems a walkout would cause for hundreds of thousands of people is "deeply concerning."
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