A job action by unionized transit workers in Vernon and Salmon Arm won’t affect commuters for now.
The transit workers, office staff and mechanics have been negotiating a new contract for more than a year.
“Without a fair offer from management, we had little choice but to take a strike vote and serve notice to possible strike actions,” said Unifor Local 114, which represents more than 60 transit workers across 16 different community in the region.
Gavin Davies, Unifor national representative, said that while there won’t be a strike that affects transit routes, drivers will not be wearing their uniforms and will be handing out pamphlets to the public to highlight the issues they’re fighting for. Those issues include wage increases to close the gap with transit workers in Kelowna and Kamloops, as well as the introduction of a pension plan.
“A lot of the general public believes that (the transit workers) are actually BC Transit employees and that they have pension plans and that they make the same money or similar money to what they make in Kelowna, and that is not true at all,” said Davies.
Davies said the union will be meeting with the employer on Sept. 18 to potentially reach a resolution.
He said the union will visit the labour board on Friday to deal with essential service levels in the event of an escalation of job actions.
“For any job action that would come after that, we would be sure to give the public as much advance notice as possible,” Davies said. “So not to fear, (transit riders) are going to get to school, they’re going to get to work for the foreseeable future.”
Davies said there may still be route cancellations, but that would only be because there are currently not enough operators to drive the busses — and that’s part of the problem the union is seeking to address.
“With the wage rates, why would somebody want to come and drive a bus when they can make dollars-an-hour more driving a truck while not having to work weekends, not having to work nights,” he said. “We’re trying to close the gap by increasing wages, being competitive and offering a pension and better benefits will help with retention and then we won’t have the shortage of workers that we currently have.”