British Columbia

SkyTrain workers vote 96.8% in favour of job action but have no immediate plans to strike

SkyTrain workers have voted in favour of job action after months-long negotiations between them and their employer, the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, broke off last week.

CUPE 7000 says dispute headed to mediation

CUPE 7000 represents about 900 SkyTrain workers who provide service as attendants and control operators, as well as administration, maintenance and technical staff. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

SkyTrain workers have voted 96.8 per cent in favour of job action after months-long negotiations between them and their employer, the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, broke off last week.

The vote gives the union the option of taking measures such as refusing overtime or going on strike, but the union has not yet given notice of any disruptions of service.

"It sends a strong message to our employer that our members are not happy with how the bargaining process has gone through," said CUPE 7000 president Tony Rebelo.

"They feel that the employer just hasn't taken this round of bargaining seriously enough."

CUPE 7000 represents about 900 SkyTrain workers who provide service as attendants and control operators, as well as administration, maintenance and technical staff.

The key issues, Rebelo said, revolve around forced overtime provisions, sickness plans, fair wage compensation and staffing levels. 

A statement from the B.C. Rapid Transit Company says that eight mediation meetings are scheduled between the company and the union beginning next Thursday.

Rebelo says the union has asked to meet this weekend ahead of mediation to try to negotiate a deal.

If those talks don't produce a deal, mediation meetings are scheduled all the way in mid-December, meaning no job action would be implemented until then.

The strike vote by SkyTrain workers follows news that the bus system will shut down for three days next week if a labour dispute between other transit workers and Coast Mountain Bus Company is not resolved.

Businesses, riders brace for shutdown 

Unifor said its bus drivers and mechanics will not report to work next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as the next step in ongoing job action, which is into its 21st day without resolution.

Vancouverites are bracing for the impact of a full-scale bus shutdown, with students scrambling to find alternative ways to class and small businesses wondering if staff will be able to show up to work. 

"If we see a complete system shutdown next [week], we're probably going to see some shutdowns of businesses, too," said Ian Tostenson, CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association.

Unifor workers have been refusing overtime on a rotating basis since Nov. 1 after contract talks broke off.

Any job action by SkyTrain workers would only affect Expo and Millennium line trains. Canada Line and West Coast Express workers are represented by a different union and would not be affected.

Rebelo says CUPE 7000 is currently in a legal strike position, but still has to issue a 72-hour notice before job action takes place.

"At this point, it's still business as usual," he said.

"We're committed to getting a deal done at the table."

With files from Jon Hernandez

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