B.C. Transit's attempt to introduce five new shuttle buses in Victoria could negatively affect negotiations now underway with unionized drivers.
Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 president Ben Williams said he has issues with the Vicinity. With its 10-year life expectancy and limited access and space for wheelchairs and mobility scooters, he said it's the wrong bus for Greater Victoria.
Unlike the 24-seat vehicles used as community shuttles, the Vicinity looks like a shorter version of a conventional transit bus. It seats 23 and has room for 16 standing passengers.
The existing collective agreement says that if a bus has 24 passenger seats, it can be driven by someone with a Class 4 licence.
If it has more than 24 seats, a Class 2 licence is required. Community bus drivers, while represented by CAW 333, generally have Class 4 licences and make about $20.71 an hour - about $5 an hour less than a regular transit driver. They are generally casual employees, compared to conventional transit drivers who are generally full-time.
A conventional bus seats 38.
B.C. Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha said he's frustrated at the union's opposition.
"The union is concerned we're going to use this to replace 40-footers. We're not doing that," he said.
"This is to improve the community shuttle program." But Williams said the capacity is a safety issue.
"Our concern is we don't think a Class 4 operator is able to operate that vehicle," he said. "That's a huge concern for us. There's different classification of licence and there's different classification of licence for a reason."
While negotiations are continuing today and into October, on Wednesday CAW 333 members voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action to support demands at the bargaining table.
The union has 90 days after a strike vote to serve strike notice.
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