Talent Canada
Talent Canada

News Labour Relations
B.C. transit providers seek essential service designation as strike threat looms

February 1, 2024
The Canadian Press

Buses line the Vancouver Transit Centre as transit workers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4500 strike in Vancouver on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. The B.C. Labour Relations Board says Metro Vancouver's regional bus operator breached rules by using replacement workers during last month's transit strike that paralyzed bus and SeaBus services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns
By Ashley Joannou in Vancouver

The manager of Metro Vancouver’s transit system says it has applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board to be designated an essential service, as a deadline for strike action looms.

TransLink says in a statement that it understands its bus and rail operators, including Coast Mountain Bus Company, have separately sought the same designation.

Coast Mountain’s transit supervisors have said they will strike for a second time if a new contract with the company isn’t reached by 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

A previous two-day strike last month by more than 180 supervisors represented by CUPE 4500 was able to halt Coast Mountain services because drivers represented by a different union refused to cross picket lines.


Talks between the bus operator and CUPE 4500 facilitated by veteran mediator Vince Ready are ongoing, but the two sides have also been facing off in labour relations board hearings.

The board says in a ruling issued Wednesday that Coast Mountain broke labour rules by using replacement workers during the first strike, but says the breach was minimal and declined to award damages or order further investigations.

The union had complained that Coast Mountain used replacement workers during the 48-hour strike that ended Jan. 24.

The board says in its decision that the bus company made “significant efforts” to minimize the breach, and the union even complimented the firm for its handling of replacement worker issues before lodging the complaint.

The labour board is hearing a separate complaint by CUPE 4500 against Coast Mountain and TransLink that it unfairly tried to reduce the strike’s impact.

The union says if a tentative deal with the bus company isn’t reached by Saturday, it will launch a new 72-hour strike, and if the ongoing labour complaint is upheld, pickets will shut down SkyTrain operations too.

A union that represents SkyTrain workers has previously said its members wouldn’t cross pickets.

Coast Mountain provides 96 per cent of all Metro Vancouver Bus services, as well as the SeaBus service across Burrard Inlet.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the board said the bus firm’s breach of replacement worker rules was “understandable in the circumstances.”

It said this was “particularly so” given the size and complexity of the bus firm’s operations, and “the novelty of the particular strike action by the union, which is unprecedented in the history of the collective bargaining relationship between the parties.”

Print this page


Stories continue below