British Columbia

14 SeaBus sailings cancelled Wednesday due to job action

A total of 14 SeaBus trips are expected to be scrapped on Wednesday, when a regional transit dispute over wages and working conditions is set to enter its sixth day.

Union has said bus cancellations could be possible as well

TransLink has announced the expected cancellation of 14 more SeaBus sailings on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A total of 14 SeaBus trips are expected to be scrapped on Wednesday, according to TransLink, as a regional transit dispute over wages and working conditions is set to enter its sixth day.

The transit authority announced the expected cancellations late Tuesday afternoon, when negotiations were still deadlocked, despite politicians' push for a resolution between Unifor members and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.

Planned SeaBus cancellations on Wednesday include:

  • The 7:10 a.m., 7:40 a.m., 8:40 a.m., 9:10 a.m., 4:10 p.m., 6:20 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. sailings from the Lonsdale Quay.
  • The 7:25 a.m., 7:55 a.m., 8:55 a.m., 9:25 a.m., 4:25 p.m., 6:35 p.m., and 7:45 p.m. sailings from Waterfront Station.

Three SeaBus round trips between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver were cancelled for Tuesday's afternoon rush hour as well.

The job action, which began Friday, has so far led to dozens of cancelled sailings on the SeaBus route between downtown Vancouver and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. 

About 5,000 transit drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers are declining overtime and bus drivers are refusing to wear uniforms as part of the job action.

Mike Smith, president of Unifor Local 2200 representing maintenance and SeaBus workers, has said the transit system in the region has "normalized overtime," so impact without the extra work will be tangible

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond spoke to media at a Vancouver Board of Trade event Tuesday. He said relying on employees to work overtime is normal at every transit agency he is aware of in North America and the overtime money is nice for people's pockets and more cost-affective for the company.

"There is a fine line between when you need to hire someone else...and when an extra hour or two of overtime makes more sense."

There has been no impact on regular bus service thus far, though Unifor said that will change by mid-week if an agreement is not reached with CMBC, which operates buses and SeaBus on behalf of TransLink.

Unifor lead negotiator Gavin McGarrigle said that staff refusing overtime means buses are not being maintained as usual and around 150 spare, road-ready buses are rapidly being deployed by TransLink across Metro Vancouver.

He predicted the company will run out of spare buses as early as Wednesday, prompting route delays or cancellations.

The Lonsdale Quay SeaBus Terminal in North Vancouver on Nov. 4, 2019. Dozens of sailings for the commuter ferry have been cancelled since job action began Nov. 1. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Last-ditch negotiations to avert a strike fell apart between the union and CMBC. The union wants an extra $608 million in wages, benefits and improvements to working conditions over 10 years. 

On Monday, Metro Vancouver mayors waded into the dispute with a statement urging the union and company back to the bargaining table to avoid a full-blown strike. Mayors' council chair Jonathan Coté said some of the union's demands, particularly around wages, were impractical.

Desmond said he is appealing to the union and CMBC to negotiate an agreement.

"If it goes further, we start affecting the lives of people who take transit everyday," he said. "Let's figure out how to get to the deal."

Premier John Horgan told a Vancouver news conference that "collective bargaining should run its course" and the government has "no plans to interfere" in the impasse between Unifor and CMBC, which bargains on behalf of TransLink.

Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle speaks at a news conference in New Westminster, B.C., on Nov. 4. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The last full-scale transit strike in Metro Vancouver lasted 123 days in 2001. In the end, the provincial government ordered staff back to work.

Transit use has risen sharply since then. Today, one in five commuters use public transit — double the number who did during the last strike 18 years ago.

TransLink data released in April said its ridership reached an all-time high in 2018.

With files from the Canadian Press