British Columbia

What commuters need to know should SkyTrain workers strike this week

SkyTrain users face a potential system-wide shutdown for three days beginning Tuesday as workers prepare to walk off the job unless an agreement can be reached on a new contract.

TransLink warns of 'unprecedented level of disruption' should Expo, Millennium lines close starting Tuesday

150,000 people use the Expo and Millennium lines each weekday. If a strike goes ahead, service would be halted from 5 a.m. PT Tuesday until 5 a.m. PT Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

SkyTrain users face a potential system-wide shutdown for three days beginning Tuesday as workers prepare to walk off the job unless an agreement can be reached on a new contract.

Over the weekend, CUPE 7000, which represents approximately 900 SkyTrain workers, announced the shutdown of the Expo and Millennium lines linking Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Port Moody and Coquitlam.

The walkout does not affect buses, the Canada Line, Seabus operations or the West Coast Express.

Further complicating matters, Coast Mountain Bus Company said Monday in a statement it isn't able to roll out additional buses to handle the expected higher than usual volume of customers.

"Given our operational constraints and labour considerations, we are not able to increase bus service in response to the planned strike by BCRTC employees," said president Michael McDaniel, in a statement.

Strike action would start at 5 a.m. PT Tuesday. It comes just weeks after a bus strike in Metro Vancouver was narrowly avoided.

"This is an unprecedented level of disruption that the union is looking to pursue," said TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy. 

Murphy said he's optimistic a deal can be reached but wouldn't reveal any details about the talks because bargaining is ongoing.

15,000 additional cars expected

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said in a Monday afternoon press conference that buses and Canada Line, in particular, will be much busier than usual.

"All of our services or most of our services that are TransLink subsidiaries are likely to see more pressure," he said.

"I want to be very clear there is no way to replace a system that reliably moves 150,000 people per day."

Desmond said 15,000 additional cars are expected on the roads during the morning rush.

Other options for commuters getting around include:

Park and ride

There are 20 Park and Ride locations across Metro Vancouver serving SkyTrain, West Coast Express and major bus hubs.

There will be additional designated carpool parking spaces at some Park and Ride lots. TransLink advises using its online trip planner for locations.

Car share

There are several car share companies with vehicles located within walking distance of SkyTrain, SeaBus, and major transit hubs throughout Metro Vancouver.

Carpooling

Several carpool organizations are available across Metro Vancouver. TransLink recommends gobyRIDE, Poparide and U-Pool for members of the public, while Liftango and RideShark are options for organizations. 

Cycling

Use your own bike or a bike-share service like Mobi.

Teleworking/Flexible work hours

Work from home or a satellite location, or consider working hours outside of the peak transit periods of 6-9 a.m. PT and 3-6 p.m. PT.

Services not affected

  • Canada Line
  • West Coast Express 
  • Bus service
  • SeaBus
  • HandyDART  

SkyTrain workers include attendants and control operators, as well as administration, maintenance and technical staff.

They and their employer, the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, were at the bargaining table until 1 a.m. PT Monday. Talks are expected to resume Monday at 11 a.m. PT.

In a statement, the union said it is committed to reaching a deal with no disruption of services.

"We understand that this is a massive action that will cause a great deal of inconvenience to our passengers, which is why we hope we can still reach an agreement before Tuesday morning," CUPE 7000 president Tony Rebelo said in a written statement.

"We have been either at the table or in mediation for almost 50 days now, so it's time to get a deal done."

In November, CUPE 7000 members voted 96.8 per cent in favour of job action after months-long talks broke down.

"We are hopeful and committed to reaching a fair deal without disrupting the valuable service we provide to the residents of this region," company president Michel Ladrak said in a Dec. 6 statement.

Anita Huberman with the Surrey Board of Trade says she's concerned any strike action could cost business if people can't get to work.

"I ask for a conclusion from both sides of this negotiation because I'm sure the workers don't want the economy compromised either," she said.

The BC Liberals issued a statement calling on Premier John Horgan and the NDP to get involved in the labour dispute to avoid a shutdown of services.

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