Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

People in B.C. want bus service deemed an essential service

British Columbians impacted by the Metro Vancouver transit strike are demanding buses be made an essential service.
Bus service in Metro Vancouver resumed on Jan. 24, 2024, following a 48-hour strike action.

People impacted by the Metro Vancouver transit strike are trying to get buses deemed an essential service.

A petition making that request has been created by a Surrey resident and has garnered more than 1,300 signatures as of Wednesday. 

Kevin Neath created the petition, stating they relies heavily on public transit for commuting to work and to see their girlfriend, family and friends. 

“Without buses, I am virtually immobile,” says Neath. “This is not just my story, but the reality of many citizens in our community who depend on this service every day.”

A 48-hour strike action on Monday saw buses shut down and the SeaBus cancelled after 180 bus supervisors walked off the job. CUPE Local 4500 and Coast Mountain Bus Company were unable to reach a deal over the weekend.

Buses in Metro Vancouver are not an essential service, but B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains could order the supervisors back to work as essential workers. 

Neath hopes the petition will put pressure on B.C. officials to recognize the importance of the bus service. 

"This lack of recognition leaves us vulnerable during strikes or other disruptions that could leave thousands stranded without any alternative means of transport,” says Neath.

Neath wants "as many signatures as possible" to stop further disruption. And Neath is not alone: a New Westminster Record reader is also asking for the province to deem it an essential service.  

"For many years now, the majority of people in Metro Vancouver have been coerced into using transit instead of their vehicles to get around the Lower Mainland, and many of them have given up their automobiles, and find themselves at the mercy of striking transit workers of one kind or another, over and over again," says Gary Tupper.

He's calling on officials to make it illegal for transit workers to go on strike. 

"I call on Premier David Eby and the provincial NDP MLAs to choose what is more important to them," says Tupper. "Is it their allies in the labour movement, or is it the thousands upon thousands of ordinary people just trying to get to work to feed their families and put a roof over their heads?"

Elsewhere in Canada, a transit agency in Toronto was deemed not an essential service. 

In May 2023, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) workers have the legal right to strike and declaring the transit agency an essential service is unconstitutional, as reported by CP24

Vince Ready, a high-profile government-appointed “special mediator,” will work to get both CUPE Local 4500 and Coast Mountain Bus Company to agree at the negotiating table, over the next six days starting Thursday. 

"If a settlement cannot be reached within this timeline, he [Ready] will issue non-binding recommendations on Feb. 2, 2024, with both parties having five days to either accept or reject the recommendations," Bains said Wednesday.

Ready had already engaged the two sides in private mediation, before the strike notice was issued. Both the union and employer say they welcome the mediator.

CUPE Local 4500 says if a tentative deal is not reached by 12:01 a.m. Feb. 3 members will walk off the job for 72 hours. 

Service at SkyTrain locations could be impacted if the Labour Board permits it. That will be decided during a Jan. 29 meeting, which could last a few days.