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Transit workers poised to strike, say better wages will help bus driver shortage

Public bus drivers in the Comox Valley and Campbell River are prepared to strike for better wages.

Gavin Davies is the national rep for the Unifor union representing public transit drivers, mechanics and cleaners. He says they don’t want to strike, but are taking the stand to prompt BC Transit to increase funding to service contractors. While the union continues to negotiate with PW Transit, the company which operates the service in the Valley and Campbell River, Davies says as the sole source of funding for contractors, BC Transit will need to get involved and increase funding to contractors to allow for higher wages.

He points out two previous strikes which dragged on for months until a mediator was brought in to come up with a settlement. In both cases the mediator granted the workers wage increases.

Davies says transit workers aren’t asking to be paid the same as big-city employees, but want wages in line with similar-sized services in Duncan and Whistler. Increases will help attract new drivers and retain existing employees, he says, pointing out workers in Duncan are making $4-5 more per hour, and Whistler workers are making up to $6 more per hour.

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“There’s these huge pay inequities with systems that are of similar size,” he says.

Davies says there won’t be any job action until mid-October at the earliest, and passengers will be informed every step of the way.

“We know that this really inconveniences people, and that’s not our goal. It’s the very last thing we want to do, not the first,” he says.

Unifor Local 114’s contract with PWT expired March 31, 2023. The strike vote took place Sept. 10 and 11 and members voted 93% in favour of striking.

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“PWT has refused to address our wage expectations and members have shown us they’re clearly willing to walk out until we see an offer that recognizes the current cost of living and makes us competitive with other transit services in the region,” says Gord McGrath, President of Unifor Local 114. “We’ve seen that sometimes it takes a strike to get an employer to negotiate a deal that respects the work our members do.”

The union says there aren’t any planned work stoppages prior to scheduled mediation dates on Oct. 11 and 12.

Services in the Valley and Campbell River have been plagued by driver shortages and route cancellations all summer.


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