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Union plans for full 3-day Metro Vancouver transit strike. Here's what that looks like

It's not just the bus this time...and it would last longer, too.
The next Metro Vancouver transit strike could include both of TransLink's SkyTrain lines: the Expo and Millennium.

The Metro Vancouver transit strike could expand to include other TransLink services, including SkyTrain lines, starting next week. 

CUPE 4500 -- the union representing transit supervisors, including those overseeing bus drivers and mechanics -- will meet with the BC Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to discuss a possible expansion of its picket lines to include the SkyTrain, the West Coast Express, and the Canada Line. 

So far, the union has only had the right to put up its picket lines on the bus network, which the other unionized workers, including Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) drivers, won't cross.

Seasoned mediator Vince Ready has been appointed by the B.C. government to help both parties reach an agreement but the union may expand their job action if a deal isn't made.

Why did the transit supervisors escalate their job action?

The union's overtime ban for its workers began back on Jan. 6. While some locals expressed concern about potential disruptions, there weren't any significant ones felt across the system. 

On Jan. 18, the union said it would escalate its job action to include picketing CMBC bus routes and SeaBus crossings, effectively shutting down its employer's operations. 

When an agreement wasn't reached over the weekend, the union implemented its escalated strike action at 3 a.m. Monday, preventing thousands of people from getting to work and school. 

Wages are the central issue at the bargaining table. The union wants its supervisors to be paid the same as SkyTrain Field Supervisors but CMBC says the roles are incomparable because the latter is responsible for directly managing employees. 

The unions representing CMBC operators did not receive pay for the days they stayed behind CUPE 4500's picket lines. They include Unifor 111, which represents over 4,000 bus drivers, and Unifor 2220, which represents approximately 1,100 Skilled Trades and Support Workers, including SeaBus operators.

Both unions say CMBC made the final decision to shut down the system.

"Lost wages for Unifor members is unacceptable to us and we are demanding that the Company compensate our members for their decision to take a strike," Unifor 2200 said in a news release.

What could the union's next transit strike look like?

Ready, appointed by the B.C. government, will work to help both parties reach an agreement. 

Union members returned to work on Wednesday morning and will continue to work while Ready mediates bargaining over the next six days.

If both parties cannot agree on a deal, the union members will walk off the job just after midnight on Feb. 3, withdrawing services for 72 hours. 

After the 72-hour strike, operations would resume on Feb. 6 just after midnight. However, there is always a possibility that the union could extend this strike window or further escalate its job action.

But if the labour board green lights the union's request to picket other transit services on Monday, commuters may also lose access to the Millennium and Expo lines, both serviced by CUPE 7000 -- the union that represents over 1,100 workers at the BC Rapid Transit Company.

Locals would also lose access to the West Coast Express, as well as the Canada line, which is serviced by employees who are represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).

This would mean that CUPE 7000's members and other union members wouldn't receive pay for the time that the picket lines at SkyTrain stations and other places on the network.

The scope and location of the picketing is up to the union to determine and the BCLRB to approve.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect a change in the schedule of the Labour Board to meet with the union. The decision was previously to be made on Monday, Jan. 29 and has been moved to Wednesday, Jan. 31.