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B.C. Transit union votes 98 per cent in favour of strike

Sep 13 2012

Members of the union representing B.C. Transit bus drivers, tradespeople and maintenance workers in Greater Victoria on Wednesday voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action to support their demands for a fair collective agreement.

“That tells me we have a strong mandate from our membership to return to the bargaining table and show B.C. Transit that they want a fair collective agreement and they stand behind their bargaining committee,” union president Ben Williams said.

The Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 and the transit corporation are far apart on issues such as wages and contracting-out, and have been without a collective agreement since March 31. The union has been working under a wage freeze for two years.

Despite the vote, Williams said the union had no intention of serving 72-hour strike notice.

Strike votes are almost a tradition before settlements between the two sides, said Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton.

“What they came to the table with was considerably different from what B.C. Transit was thinking,” she said.

Burton could not divulge the particulars of wage offers.

Negotiations are expected to continue on Friday and into October.

The union has 90 days after a strike vote to serve notice. The last B.C. Transit strike occurred in 2001 and lasted about two weeks. A contract was reached without back-to-work legislation. Since then, Victoria’s transit trips have increased from 17.9 million to 25 million, Burton said.

Williams said recently that members want to reach a fair collective agreement without disrupting service. Union members also want to see more buses, reduced over-crowding so riders aren’t left behind and more late-night service.