British Columbia

Lower Mainland bus drivers avoid possible strike with tentative deal

Coast Mountain Bus Company and Unifor both released statements Friday afternoon announcing a tentative deal had been reached to head off a bus drivers' strike. The agreement must be ratified by union membership before it's officially a deal.

Union members voted 98% in favour of strike action in April

Lower Mainland buses will operate as normal if a three-year tentative agreement between Unifor and the Coast Mountain Bus Company is approved by union membership.

The Coast Mountain Bus Company and the union representing its drivers, mechanics, maintenance and SeaBus staff have announced a three-year tentative agreement heading off a possible strike.

In April, members of Unifor Locals 111 and 2200 — which represents 4,700 employees of the TransLink subsidiary — voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike to back contract demands.

Local 111 President Steve Sutherland said in a statement the deal involved "no concessions," but no further details would be released until a ratification vote.

"If accepted, this contract will provide us with stability and allow us to focus on working with riders, the community and all three levels of government to improve transit services," the statement read.

Local 2200 President Joe Elworthy said the deal was important for retaining workers in the face of wage competition from the private sector.

Unifor said in April, wages, benefits and working conditions were key issues at the bargaining table, as well as concerns about contracting out of service workers and maintenance staff.

Unifor employees of the Coast Mountain Bus Company voted 98 percent in favour of a strike to back contract demands in April. That now appears to be unnecessary. (CBC)

Wages for transit operators currently start at $19.57 an hour and top out at $30.91 within two years of employment, which Unifor said is a lower wage than other workers in similar positions in B.C.

In a concurrent statement, Coast Mountain expressed pleasure about reaching the deal.

"Thank you to our employees and customers for your patience during this period of uncertainty," the statement read. "We are pleased to have come to an agreement without a disruption in service to our customers."

The deal is not yet final. It must first be approved by the union membership.

Unifor says the ratification vote will take place July 21.