The planned, three-day transit strike in the eastern Fraser Valley continues today, Friday.
Buses are not running in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs or Hope. This portion of the Fraser Valley Express is also affected, but it’s unclear if western points of that inter-city route are running.
The services are suspended until Sunday, March 12, and transit workers employed by First Transit are on the picket line at the Abbotsford headquarters for the Central Fraser Valley system on Gladys Road. They are in wage negotiations with their employer and union, CUPE Local 561.
BC Transit has said today that riders will potentially see more strike action on March 20.
“CUPE Local 561 has indicated that if an agreement is not reached by March 20, service will be suspended indefinitely, with the exception of essential handyDART service for critical medical appointments in Abbotsford and Mission,” a BC Transit statement said.
Employees have not been collecting fares for more than a month now, and drivers have been informing passengers about the escalation of their job action.
First Transit issued a statement as well, adding that are working to mitigate impact to the HandyDART services, including essential services for people undergoing renal dialysis, cancer treatment, and multiple sclerosis treatment.
“While it is unfortunate that members of CUPE 561 are choosing to withdraw service once more from customers in the Fraser Valley, First Transit reiterates its commitment to the collective bargaining process and continuing constructive negotiations,” First Transit said. “Last week, First Transit presented CUPE Local 561 with an offer that would see significant wage increases on par with trends across the province, as well as structural improvements to enhance reliability of service.”
They added that the offer balances the needs of stakeholders with the need to be attract and retain workers.
“Our lines of communication remain open, and we are hopeful that we can reach a negotiated solution that prevents further service interruptions,” they said.
Both First Transit and BC Transit thank their customers for patience via news releases. Meanwhile, the employees are looking for support on their website, weneedalift.ca.
“As Fraser Valley Transit workers, we love our jobs and are dedicated to the communities we serve,” the website says. “Some of us have worked here for decades, getting to know the passengers we give a lift to every day, even watching some of them grow up and have kids of their own. But lately, it’s been hard to make ends meet. Now we’re the ones who need a lift.”
“Many of us are forced to work overtime, or take on a second job, to pay our bills. The fact is, we earn 32 per cent less than other transit operators in Lower Mainland B.C., people who do the same work. And there’s no pension.”
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