B.C. Transit's union has accused it of using illegal replacement workers to fix buses during its ongoing labour dispute in Greater Victoria.
Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 said the company sent nine buses to outside firms for repairs this week.
The union said that violates the B.C. Labour Code, which prohibits replacement workers from doing unionized work during a labour dispute.
The company disagrees, saying it has the right, within the collective agreement, to hire outside contractors if it lacks facilities, equipment or staff to get the work done on time.
The union wants a hearing before the B.C. Labour Relations Board or an order against B.C. Transit to cease and desist.
"We've made application today to the labour board to have it stopped immediately," said union president Ben Williams in an interview Friday.
The 650 members of Local 333 began an overtime ban after negotiations with B.C. Transit broke down Oct. 22. The ban has forced B.C. Transit to cancel hundreds of trips and led to a drop in ridership.
B.C. Transit spokesman Meribeth Burton said B.C. Transit is short seven mechanics and has been relying on overtime to keep its fleet on the road.
By Tuesday, the union's ban on overtime had taken its toll, and more than 15 buses were out of service.
Burton said B.C. Transit had to decide whether to cut service and lay off drivers, or send the buses elsewhere to get fixed.
"We thought this would be the least damaging," she said. "The mechanics that are working here have been extraordinarily hardworking to keep all the service going on the road. ... [This] was the first time that we could not keep up with the demands in our mechanics shops."
By farming out nine buses for repairs, the company will be able to maintain service levels next week, she said.
Williams disputed the company's explanation.
"You can't maintain your fleet without overtime after 20 days?" he said.
The union has said that the main stumbling block in the dispute is B.C. Transit's desire to use lower-paid, part-time drivers to operate new Vicinity shuttle buses. The union calls that a "major concession."
"It's really unfortunate that we're even in the situation we are," Williams said. "We believe this is something that should be able to get resolved without any of the inconveniences that are happening out there to the Greater Victoria residents."
Burton denies that B.C. Transit is seeking concessions, saying the company will sign the collective agreement as it is with the maximum wage increase permitted under the provincial government's co-operative gains mandate.
"We've not asked for one concession," she said.
© Copyright 2013