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Victoria bus drivers say service will be disrupted Tuesday if negotiations don't resume

Oct 11 2012
B.C. Transit driver Graham Orr  works without a uniform on Douglas Street in  Victoria on Wednesday. 

B.C. Transit driver Graham Orr works without a uniform on Douglas Street in Victoria on Wednesday.

Photograph by: Darren Stone , Times Colonist

B.C. Transit bus drivers say they will disrupt passenger commutes in the Capital Region on Tuesday unless their employer returns to contract negotiations.

Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 would not confirm today if they will conduct a full shutdown of services, but said they have plans for job action that would affect bus riders.

“I’m not saying it will be a full-blown shutdown, I’m not saying it isn’t,” CAW Local 333 president Ben Williams said today.

The announcement comes on the day when drivers snubbed their bosses by ditching their uniforms and showing up to work in street clothes.

The largely symbolic move is the first public protest taken by transit workers, who have been threatening to shut down the region-wide bus system because of failed contract negotiations with B.C. Transit.

CAW 333 and its employer remain far apart on several issues, including wages, benefits and language for contracting out services.

B.C. Transit officials say today’s protest can lead to safety issues because anyone without a company-issued uniform can easily operate a bus without being identified.

“We understand they need to make their point . . . but management is not happy that uniforms weren’t worn today,” said Meribeth Burton, spokeswoman for B.C. Transit. “Having said that, we’re happy it was not a full-blown strike, which they are in a legal position to do.”

The union issued 72-hour strike notice late last week and could walk off the job at any time, but members promised to give 24 hours’ notice before they did.

Both sides say they want to negotiate, but neither has made a move since last week to resume talks.

CAW Local 333 president Ben Williams said there are many issues to discuss beyond wages and benefits, including language that the union says will improve drivers’ ability to complete their routes on time.

“Run times are just one issue we’re trying to address,” Williams said.

B.C. Transit recognizes there are “many” issues to be discussed, said Burton, but the wages and salaries need to be worked under the provincial government’s co-operative gains mandate, which allows wage increases for the public sector only when other savings within the system pay for them.

“In order to bridge the impasse, the mandate has to be respected,” she said. “We have to have an agreement under that mandate before looking at the rest.”

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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