Douglas College students likely relatively unaffected due to SkyTrain access
By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter
Chances are that you may not be reading the Other Press on the bus in a week, after Oct 28.
Last weekend two unions—Unifor Local 111, the union representing Metro Vancouver Transit Operators, and Unifor Local 2200, the union representing bus maintenance and Seabus workers, held strike mandate votes ahead of negotiations for a new contract with Coast Mountain Bus Company.
According to a memorandum posted on the website of Local 111, 99% of their membership voted in favour of a strike action. The strike vote empowers the bargaining committee to call a strike among its membership if negotiations with their employer breakdown. Unifor (the amalgamation of the two Unions) and Coast Mountain Bus Company continue a second round of negotiations for a new contract, after talks broke down earlier this month. CityNews reports that Gavin McGarrigle, the Western Regional Director of Unifor, stated:
“We’ve just come through three days of negotiations and we’re starting to make some progress, although it’s slow at this stage.”
The Union is seeking increased wages that align with other major transit services, longer breaks, and the hiring of more drivers. According to the BC labour Relations Code, the bargaining committee can exercise their memberships’ strike support, or “call a strike,” within three months of an “in-favour” strike vote, but must give their employer 72 hours’ notice of a prospective strike.
A looming bus strike would inconvenience students in the Lower Mainland, as many greater Vancouver-area post-secondary students commute to class via bus. Most universities and colleges are serviced primarily via bus, with Douglas College being the exception—as the campus is serviced via SkyTrain for most students.
Of note is that SkyTrain services would not be affected by the bus operator strike. Both New Westminster and Coquitlam Douglas campuses are steps away from SkyTrain stations. Douglas College New Westminster is serviced by New Westminster station on the Expo Line, and Douglas College Coquitlam can be accessed by Lafarge Lake–Douglas station on the Millennium Line.
According to TransLink data, available on their 2018 Transit Service Performance Review website, New Westminster station was the eighth busiest SkyTrain station in terms of daily passenger boarding. Whereas, Lafarge Lake-Douglas was 48th out of 53 SkyTrain stations with regards to total ridership. The ridership numbers at New Westminster station may be primarily student driven, as its ranking falls dramatically over the weekend.
This is not the first time the Lower Mainland has faced transit unrest. In 2001, TransLink and its employees failed to reach an agreement through the bargaining process, and that produced a labour stoppage. The last bus operator strikes in Metro Vancouver occurred that year. The protracted strike lasted approximately four months and was resolved with provincial legislation mandating employees return to work.