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B.C. government appoints Vince Ready 'special mediator' in Metro Vancouver transit dispute

Transit supervisors' union eyes Feb. 3 as a return to the picket lines if special mediation does not work.
B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains on Jan. 22, 2024 during a Metro Vancouver bus shutdown due to ongoing contractual disputes between transit supervisors and Coast Mountain Bus Company.

B.C. Minister of Labour Harry Bains has appointed veteran mediator Vince Ready as a special mediator for the ongoing contractual dispute between Metro Vancouver transit supervisors represented by CUPE Local 4500, and the Coast Mountain Bus Company.

On Wednesday, as supervisors returned to work after a 48-hour strike that saw a complete shutdown of bus service in the metropolitan region, Bains said Ready’s engagement with the two sides will seek to reach an agreement, particularly on wages.

"As of tomorrow, Jan. 25, 2024, Ready will work with the parties for a period of up to six days to secure a resolution. If a settlement cannot be reached within this timeline, he will issue non-binding recommendations on Feb. 2, 2024, with both parties having five days to either accept or reject the recommendations,” said Bains.

Ready had already engaged the two sides in private mediation, before the strike notice was issued.

More than 180 transit supervisors in the Lower Mainland are represented by CUPE Local 4500. 

According to the company, supervisors have been offered a 13.5 per cent increase over three years, starting from Jan. 1, 2023, when the old three-year contract expired.

That brings a transit supervisor’s salary to $104,886, from $92,415.

The company says the union’s offer is a 25 per cent increase, to a salary of $115,477.

The supervisors have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2022 and say the company only started negotiating with them last October.

The company says its offer aligns with offers accepted by other unions.

If an agreement is not reached Bains could order the supervisors not to strike again, deeming them an essential service.

On Wednesday the company and union both said they welcomed Ready trying to mediate again, this time on behalf of government.

"We hope the union will not resume any job action while the Special Mediator is doing his work. CMBC is committed to working closely with the Special Mediator in the coming days," stated the company.

The union has agreed that no strike action will take place before Ready files his report however if an agreement is not reached by Feb. 3 a 72-hour shutdown will occur:

“We’re committed to working with the special mediator. We hope his recommendations might show us a path to a fair collective agreement. If not, CUPE 4500 members will be left with no choice but to take the next step,” said Liam O’Neill, spokesperson for CUPE 4500.

“If we don’t have a tentative agreement by 12:01 a.m. February 3, CUPE 4500 members will be withdrawing services for 72 hours."

Furthermore, said O'Neill in a statement, "if the Labour Board permits it, CUPE 4500 intends to expand picketing sites to include other TransLink locations as part of this next strike escalation. This picketing will include SkyTrain stations and other operations."

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This article was updated Jan. 24 with new information