Buses may stop running in Kelowna starting on Oct. 5, due to a transit strike.
BC Transit has issued a notice that the unionized drivers that serve Kelowna have declared a deadline to stop service in the Kelowna Regional Transit System as of 5:28 a.m. on Wednesday Oct.5.
Negotiations began between unionized Kelowna drivers and First Transit in February, over the need for increased funding for the drivers.
On Aug. 28, the Union took a vote with 97 per cent in favour of a strike.
“That’s our last resort,” said Al Peressini, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722. “We don’t want to disrupt service for customers… The area is growing and transit should be growing to meet the demand, but the private company is not doing it.”
In the lead-up to the strike, the Union engaged in six weeks of escalating job actions including an overtime ban and refusal to accept bus fares.
Approximately 30 per cent of Kelowna’s routed and buses have already been cancelled due to the overtime ban.
“It’s been a slow progression… we want to give the public as much notice as possible,” said Peressini.
The Transit Union said that First Transit,which is owned by a Swedish Private Equity Firm, has not responded to an invitation to resume bargaining.
The Union is encouraging the public to reach out to elected officials and ask them to take action to hold First Transit “accountable.”
Peressini said First Transit has left them “with no other option” but to go on strike.
“We don’t know where they are, or what they are thinking. I guess their priorities are not in Kelowna or with the public service that they have been entrusted to run. We need the city councils and the province to step in at this point. If they won’t answer to us, perhaps they will answer to the governments that pay them tax dollars to run this bus system.”
The labour dispute is between BC Transit’s contractor, First Transit, and the unionized employees. BC Transit said in a press release that they hope the parties find a resolution soon and apologizes to customers impacted by the strike.
The strike will not impact handyDART service, Route 90 UBCO/Vernon or Route 70 Penticton/Kelowna.
Capital News has reached out to First Transit for comment and will update the article with additional information as it becomes available.