West Vancouver bus union to resume contract talks after strike vote

The union representing Blue Bus workers in West Vancouver will meet with the municipality beginning Monday in order to try to reach a new deal.

The Amalgamated Transit Union 134, which represents 150 Blue Bus drivers and mechanics, said last week that it will return to talks with the District of West Vancouver for up to three days, following a vote that saw 96 per cent of employees in favour of strike action.

Posted to social media Monday morning, the union says talks to avoid strike action are now underway.

“It’s realistic, fair, and easy to understand that when workers from one group do the same job as they do in another group, they should be treated equally,” ATU Local 134 said.

ATU Local 134 has been in contract talks over working conditions and benefits, which it says do not match up with other transit unions representing workers across Metro Vancouver. Union president Cornel Neagu says members are frustrated with the West Vancouver district “repeatedly delaying bargaining.”

“Our members are fed up with West Vancouver District trying to avoid negotiating a new collective agreement and today’s overwhelming strike vote shows that, as does the very strong turnout of members to vote,” Neagu said in a press release last week.

According to the union, negotiations began in December 2023, but the parties have since failed to reach an agreement before the existing contract expired on March 31.

“Our union members voted for possible job action because all they are asking for is what all other transit operators and mechanics already have in the rest of Metro Vancouver,” Neagu added. “West Vancouver is the richest community in the region and paying our members the poorest benefits and working conditions is not acceptable.”

The district filed a ‘negotiation in bad faith’ claim to the BC Labour Relations Board after the ATU met with the district five times in February.

The two parties later met with mediators three times, where the union says there was “absolutely no employer movement.” The labour relations board moved forward on April 19, allowing ATU to take a vote on job action.

In a statement to CityNews Wednesday, West Vancouver said it applied to the labour relations board on April 30 to have the strike vote invalidated entirely, saying the union “misinterpreted the employer’s position on key bargaining issues to the union members.”

The district also addressed allegations from the union of poor working conditions.

“No West Vancouver Transit employees have been barred from using the washroom during their work day, and there is no plan by the Employer to restrict or limit use of washrooms by these or any other District employees,” it stated.

The union says it will do it’s best to reach a new contract, despite the “provocations and unhelpful actions by the employer.”

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

Should the two parties not come to an agreement, ATU Local 134 will have the option to serve a 72-hour strike notice under the BC Labour Relations Code.