Bus service should operate Monday as usual: B.C. Transit

Despite threats from Greater Victoria bus drivers to stop working overtime as of Monday, all routes should operate as usual — barring additional problems, B.C. Transit said Sunday.

Stopping short of a full strike, the bus drivers’ union has said its members will not work overtime shifts until a new contract is agreed to with the transit corporation.

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Contract negotiations between the corporation and Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 fell apart Thursday for the second week in a row. This time was largely due to the union taking issue with B.C. Transit’s purchasing of new high-capacity shuttle buses.

CAW 333 wants the buses to be operated by drivers with more training, saying the new buses are now the biggest hurdle to overcome before a deal can be reached.

“That’s the main stumbling block,” said Ben Williams, CAW 333 president.

Drivers ditched their uniforms this month in their first form of job action. Monday will be the first protest that could affect schedules, Williams said. 

B.C. Transit operates about 2,600 hours of conventional and community service on an average day, with up to about five per cent handled by drivers working overtime.

The corporation, however, has juggled its operations so that at least “in the very short run,” the system can be managed without using overtime, said spokeswoman Meribeth Burton.

Changes to the schedule include cancelling all non-essential services, including training of new drivers.

But those changes might not go far enough, according to the union. Rejigging schedules can only go so far, especially if too many drivers call in sick.

“I don’t think they can avoid all disruption, but they can reschedule everything to help reduce the impact,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, the union president has been threatened with legal action for claims he made about the new Vicinity buses purchased by B.C. Transit.

Fifteen of the buses are destined for B.C. communities, including five bound for Victoria.

The manufacturer of the Vicinity, Grande West Transportation International, took offence at several statements made by Williams and threatened to take him and the union to court unless they publicly apologize.

For updates on service and possible disruptions, visit bctransit.com or check out facebook.com/bctransit and twitter.com/bctransit.


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