Bus drivers looking for a ‘minor’ wage hike

Transit riders can rest assured, their buses will roll along as scheduled even if drivers vote yes on Sunday to a strike.

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union have been without a contract since March. This weekend, they’ll see the latest deal offered from First Canada, the company that operates the provincial contract.

“This is the last offer from the company, and we expect it to be turned down and take a strike vote at that time,” said Les Milton, union president.

“But we don’t want to upset our riders. Even if we get a successful strike vote, it doesn’t mean we’re on strike. There will be lots of notice.”

Milton explained that bus drivers in Kelowna have been without a contract since March, and they’re holding out until the company that operates the provincial transit contract gives them a “minor raise.”

“We’re caught—that’s the easiest way to describe it,” he said. “We work for a large multinational transit provider that bids on contracts from B.C. Transit.”

B.C. Transit deals with the company, which means the union has no access to the government run organization.

Unfortunately, said Milton, they’ve opted not to negotiate wages, choosing to toe the provincial government’s line by offering zero contract increases to public sector employees.

“The offer we got was minimal and the drivers in Kelowna believe they’re entitled to a standard of living increase, and a meager raise,” he said.

Alongside Kelowna bus drivers’ First Canada contract troubles are similar issues in Kamloops. Last week they had a successful strike vote of 98 per cent.

Vernon drivers won’t see their contract expire until next year.