Strike could see buses shut down Monday

Cowichan Valley Transit Workers are poised to go on strike next week depending on the outcome of two final days of

Cowichan Valley Transit Workers are poised to go on strike next week depending on the outcome of two final days of negotiations with their employer, First Canada, which provides transit services around the Cowichan Valley and to the City of Victoria.

Stu Shields, national representative for Unifor, the union representing the workers, stated that the employees have been without a contract since March 2015, although hard bargaining has only been going for the past two months. The union has voted 100 per cent in favor of a strike unless First Canada takes its current demands off the table.

“We were perfectly ready to issue our strike notice last week but based on the talks we said we’ll withhold doing that…because in good faith we think we might be able to strike a deal this week,” said Shields. “We’re hopeful that when we get together Thursday there will be a framework for a deal, in which case we won’t serve 72 hours.”

A strike would affect all routes within the Cowichan Valley as well as the commuter bus to Victoria.

The union is looking for a settlement that mirrors the agreement reached between BC Transit and the City of Victoria last August. Shields said while they are not seeking the same dollars per hour as Victoria, but they do want the same raise percentages and premiums that Victoria achieved.

“We can tweak all that so it fits within the scope of their budget. But if [First Canada] think they’re getting a cheaper settlement than Victoria got then get ready to be taken out,” said Shields.

The union is demanding a 5.95 per cent pay raise over five years plus $1 extra per hour because they are willing to accept a step wage grid for new hires, whereby it takes four years for new drivers to reach the full wage. (Currently new hires move immediately to the full wage after their training.)

According to Shields the current wage rate for drivers in the Cowichan Valley is “just shy of $25 an hour.”

Shields said one of the sticking points has been First Canada’s desire to restrict benefits to only full-time employees, even though many of their part-time employees are working full-time hours.

“We’ve said absolutely not…If they work full-time hours they’re entitled to full-time benefits,” said Shields.

In a press release late last week, Shields said he is calling on the provincial government and BC Transit, which contracts out the transit service to First Canada, to encourage the company to take all concessions off the table and accept the union’s demands.

He said he has not heard anything from the provincial government, but felt positive about his talks with BC Transit.

In an email, BC Transit media and public relations advisor Mike Russell said: “We contract out the operations services to private operating companies who manage and hire their own services. As such, the labour dispute is between our service contractor for the area, First Canada, and their unionized employees.”

However, Shields believes that BC Transit can and should get involved with the collective bargaining process.

“My position is…‘Yes you can. They’re your contractor. Ultimately you’re responsible for getting the service out,” he said.

First Canada could not be reached for comment by press time.

If strike notice is issued by the union, bus service in the Cowichan Valley could shut down as early as Monday.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The cherry trees on Canada Avenue in Duncan are in full bloom this April, 2021. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan’s cherry trees in full blossom

There are a few things that signal the coming of spring every… Continue reading

(Courtesy photo)
Editorial: Rent bank for Cowichan a wise investment

It’s essentially the collective emergency fund

Cheryl Day, a member of the management team at the Cow Café West Coast Grill, celebrates the 200 Dine Cowichan Meals the restaurant sold in support of Island Savings’ Get a Meal, Give a Meal campaign. (Submitted)
Business notes: Dine & Sip Cowichan raises $10,000 for local food banks

What’s going on in the Cowichan Valley business community

North Cowichan will kick in more funding for the new field house at the Cowichan Sportsplex as the estimates of construction costs have dramatically risen. (File photo)
North Cowichan to contribute $325,000 more towards field house project

Cowichan Sportsplex project’s costs jump significantly

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m.
(Instagram/Qtcatspictureclub)
8 people arrested after anti-pipeline protestors chain themselves to Vancouver buildings

Cst. Tania Visintin said demonstrators caused ‘a serious safety hazard’ for hours Wednesday

Jamie Coutts recorded a man following her around downtown Vancouver for a half-hour on Wednesday, March 18. (Instagram screenshot/Iammjammbamm)
Man charged in alleged high-profile Vancouver stalking case that went viral online

Man faces five other charges including criminal harassment and assault with a weapon

A sea lion swims past the window of an empty viewing area Vancouver Aquarium is pictured Thursday, September 10, 2020. The Vancouver Aquarium has had to close its doors to the public due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
U.S.-based theme park company buys Vancouver Aquarium

Aquarium had to shut its doors in September due to COVID pandemic

Legendary broadcaster Bernie Pascall is among in the Class of 2021 to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. (PQB News file photo)
Island broadcasting legend Bernie Pascall named to Canadian Football Hall of Fame

Pascall named by Football Reporters of Canada as inductee in the 2021 class in the media category

A Sooke man died Tuesday afternoon after his car left the roadway in 7500-block of West Coast Road around 1:30 p.m. and hit a tree. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke man dies when car slams into tree

The man’s SUV left the roadway and struck a tree

A man with a history of sexual offences was arrested after he followed and aggressively tried to talk to two young woman on the weekend. Black Press File Photo
Man convicted of sexual offences arrested after teens followed in Victoria

Women hid in a Quadra Village convenience store as man aggressively tried to get in

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read