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'Unaddressed maintenance issues': Union says buses could fail in snow during Metro Vancouver strike

The threat of snow in our region will only make the impact greater.
The Metro Vancouver weather forecast includes widespread snow that could impact the bus strike. Photo via GoToVan/Flickr

The union representing transit supervisors says the impact of their bus strike could be felt this week ahead of a series of winter storms and significant snowfall. 

Following a 72-hour strike notice, CUPE 4500 — the union representing over 180 transit supervisors — commenced job action Saturday, Jan. 6 with an overtime ban, affecting all operations in the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) system. CMBC operates more than 96 per cent of TransLink's bus routes in Metro Vancouver.

Since transit operators (including bus drivers and SkyTrain operators) aren't striking, CMBC said it hadn't experienced any impacts to its operations as of Monday.

But CUPE servicing representative Liam O’Neill says the impacts will be felt over the coming days — particularly with widespread snowfall in the Metro Vancouver weather forecast.

"The impacts of this action will be felt across the system in the coming days as buses are lost to unaddressed maintenance issues, and supervisors are unavailable to help resolve the many service interruptions that can naturally occur across the system," he told V.I.A.

"The threat of snow in our region will only make the impacts greater should the Lower Mainland experience substantial accumulations."

O'Neil says strike action was a last resort following "multiple attempts to reach a fair deal" through mediation with its employer. 

"Our bargaining committee remains available to meet with CMBC in the hopes that the employer comes back to the table with a fair offer, and in the hopes of avoiding escalating action, including a full walkout, in the days to come," he added. 

Could the bus strike and the Metro Vancouver weather forecast affect transit operations?

CMBC says it hasn't seen any service impacts as a result of the overtime ban and does "not project any significant impact."

On average, around 1.5 per cent of its CMBC bus services are cancelled daily due to unforeseen circumstances with maintenance or operations. Since the overtime ban began, buses have "been running smoothly, with under 1 per cent of service cancelled each day," the company told V.I.A.

"This means that (Monday), Sunday, and Saturday – bus service has been running smoother than an average day, with fewer cancellations. We continue to monitor this closely."

As of 4:30 p.m. on Monday, nine of the departures on TransLink's bus advisories were cancelled due to mechanical issues and one due to traffic. Dozens were cancelled due to planned work, such as construction or planned winter schedule changes. However, on Monday night alone, 78 cancellations cancellations do not provide an explanation. 

Talks previously broke down between the union and CMBC after their collective agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2022; the parties didn’t start bargaining until Oct. 16, 2023. 

The union voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action on Dec. 22, 2023.

Translink Customers can receive real-time information by signing up for Transit Alerts, following the TransLink X (Twitter) account, or by calling Customer Information.