Transit operators in the Fraser Valley, represented by CUPE 561, have served 72-hour strike notice to First Transit, the for-profit company that operates BC Transit services in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, and the surrounding region.
“People see BC Transit on the side of our busses and think our members are getting the same wages as other BC Transit workers—we are not,” said CUPE 561 President Jane Gibbons. “Our members make significantly less than transit workers across the Lower Mainland, with no pension plan and long hours of standby time for which they receive less than $3 per hour.”
The transit operator, First Transit, is a private American-based company and holds the contract for transit services in the region. They operate both conventional and HandyDART transit in the Fraser Valley and were the subject of a recent transit labour dispute in Kelowna in September of last year.
The parties have engaged in more than 20 days of bargaining since talks began in late Spring of 2022. Among the major outstanding issues is wage and compensation fairness as Fraser Valley transit workers make 32% less than transit workers across the Lower Mainland.
“Our members are seeking a fair deal, one that pays them what other transit operators are currently being paid. It doesn’t make any sense that those in the Fraser Valley should be asked to do the same job for less than everyone else,” said Gibbons.
The union will be in a legal strike position as of 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at which point drivers will stop collecting fares. Two days of full service withdrawal, excluding HandyDART services, are February 27 and 28, with further escalation anticipated in the weeks to follow if a deal cannot be reached.
“We are committed to continuing negotiations and trying our level best to avoid disruptions to the public we serve. We have delayed full withdrawal of service to give residents ample notice, and in the hopes that First Transit will return to the table with a renewed approach.”