CUPE 561 transit operators in front of a not in service busWithout a deal by March 20, Fraser Valley transit will be reduced to essential service levels

Following a two-day shutdown of all transit services in the Fraser Valley except for HandyDART, CUPE 561 has reached out to First Transit, and the two parties have agreed to sit down for talks today (March 2) in the latest effort to reach a fair deal for the most underpaid transit workers in the region.

Although the two sides have agreed to meet, transit workers are still not collecting fares and the union will escalate its job action if no deal is reached. Another shutdown of all services except for HandyDART will occur on March 9, 10, and 11. Further bargaining dates with the employer are scheduled for the following week.

While talks continue, the union says a complete shutdown of the system is inevitable if the U.S.-based, for-profit company fails to address regional wage disparity, the lack of a pension plan, and working conditions that led to the job action.

“Unless First Transit is prepared to deal with these issues, transit users should be prepared to go without service for a long period of time,” said CUPE 561 President Jane Gibbons.

“We understand the imposition this will place on people who depend on public transit. It is not a decision we take lightly, but we have been left with no other option. That is why, since our job action began a month ago, we have given this employer ample opportunity to reach a fair settlement without having to cause constant disruption to the system.”

If no deal is reached by March 20, Gibbons said, a full walk-out will begin and the Fraser Valley transit system will be down to essential services. This means that HandyDART services will only be available for those requiring treatment for cancer, multiple sclerosis, and renal dialysis.

“We encourage Fraser Valley residents to visit to send a letter to their regional district representative and MLA,” added Gibbons.