Vancouver bus drivers vote in favour of strike action

The 4,700 employees of the Coast Mountain Bus Company, a TransLink subsidiary, are taking the vote to potentially put pressure on their employer.

Strike vote affects 4,700 employees and all bus and SeaBus passengers

Bus drivers, SeaBus captains and maintenance workers sign up to take a strike vote at the Italian Cultural Centre on Thursday. (CBC)

Metro Vancouver bus drivers, SeaBus captains and support staff have voted almost unanimously in favour of strike action.

The 4,700 employees of the Coast Mountain Bus Company, a TransLink subsidiary, voted 98 per cent in favour of putting pressure on their employer. 

Voting was held on Thursday at the Italian Cultural Center at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 7 p.m. 

"The turnout has been just incredible," said Unifor president Nathan Woods. "Clearly the members that are showing up today are in support of us."

The union representing the workers says a successful vote is what the Coast Mountain Bus Company needs to be pushed over the edge to come back with what it calls a fair contract.

"I think the results of today's vote will allow us to go back to the table on May 9 with CMBC and carry a strong mandate," he said. 

The vote affects transit operators, mechanics, SeaBus captains as well as other maintenance and support workers. 

No immediate strike notice

Now that the vote has gone in favour of a strike, the bargaining committee can tell the employers that employees will walk off the job unless their demands are met.

Unifor president Nathan Woods says an affirmative strike vote won't immediately lead to a 72 hour strike notice. (CBC)

A strike would have enormous repercussions on those who take the bus or SeaBus in Metro Vancouver, but would not affect SkyTrain service.

But Woods said employees won't walk off the job immediately. 

"Tomorrow, we're not going to be applying for 24 hours strike notice. We're going to see how the employer responds to this decision today," he said. 

​Woods has repeatedly said that wages, benefits and working conditions are key issues at the bargaining table.

Translink issued a statement on behalf of Coast Mountain Bus Company after the vote results were announced, saying they "remain committed to reaching an acceptable negotiated settlement."

Contract talks collapsed April 6. Upcoming meetings at the bargaining table have been scheduled for May 9 and 24. 

With files from Anita Bathe