Legislation ends Vancouver bus strike

B.C. government legislates an end to the four-month-old Vancouver bus strike

The British Columbia government passed legislation Wednesday night to end the four-month-old bus strike in the Vancouver area.

The bill orders a resumption of service under the terms of the last collective agreement, until a new contract is signed.

The Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Coast Mountain Bus Co. will sit down with a special mediator in another attempt to reach a deal.

If they can't come to an agreement within 30 days, Labour Minister Graham Bruce could then ask the mediator to recommend a settlement package, or he could send the dispute to binding arbitration.

Union spokesman Len Ruel says the legislation is based on a report by mediator Vince Ready. In mid-June, the union accepted his recommendations, but Coast Mountain Bus Co. rejected them.

The two sides had already agreed on wages, but couldn't settle the issues of contracting out and the use of part-time drivers.

After 123 days without bus service in a city of two million, some businesses said the strike pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy.

Transit users accused the transportation board that runs the bus company of deliberately prolonging the strike to save millions in operating costs.

During the walkout, board president George Puil was burned in effigy and protesters piled manure in front of his home.

Although the legislation ends the strike immediately, the company says it'll be at least Monday before the buses are rolling again.

Ruel says the drivers are ready to return to work.

Customers will be offered three days of free rides when service resumes.