Blue Bus union says yes to strike, talks will resume with West Vancouver later in May

Unionized Blue Bus system drivers and mechanics have voted in favour of strike action, if needed, to negotiate a new contract with West Vancouver District.

In a release Tuesday night, the union announced a 96 per cent ‘yes’ vote to strike if members’ demands are not met.

ATU Local 134 President Cornel Neagu said union members voted strongly because they are frustrated with the West Vancouver District “repeatedly delaying bargaining and refusing to move” on bringing working conditions and benefits in line with other transit operators and mechanics in the rest of Metro Vancouver.

“Our members are fed up with West Vancouver District trying to avoid negotiating a new collective agreement and [Tuesday]’s overwhelming strike vote shows that, as does the very strong turnout of members to vote,” Neagu said in a release. “Even late [Tuesday] West Vancouver District filed a desperate last-minute attempt at the B.C. Labour Relations Board to keep the union from releasing the results of our strike vote. It is no way to respect our members and get back to bargaining.”

The West Vancouver District reportedly also filed an allegation with the Labor Relations Board Tuesday, that the union is “not bargaining in good faith.” Neagu “vigorously disproves” of that allegation, saying it shows an employer who “wants to provoke a disruption of service.”

The union claimed the West Vancouver District filed an application to have the Blue Bus system declared an essential service, which would affect the union’s negotiating position.

The release recalled a quote by B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in 2019, saying that a negotiated agreement under free collective bargaining which avoided a Metro Vancouver-wide bus strike was proof that there was no need to declare transit an essential service.

Despite the vote, Neagu said the union will return to talks with the West Vancouver District on May 6 for up to three days.

ATU Local 134 has 150 members who operate and maintain West Vancouver’s Blue Bus system of 64 buses, which transport about 18,000 passenger trips per day.

“We will eventually get a new collective agreement,” said Neagu. “These actions by the employer are only expensive delaying tactics.”