The union representing Kelowna’s bus drivers voted ‘yes’ to a contract tabled last week, averting the possibility of a city-wide transit strike.
“We had 66 per cent in favour of the offer,” said Les Milton president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union, noting it was a fairly divisive contract.
“There may be some grumpy drivers for a couple more days, but the long and short of it is they didn’t want to upset their riders,”.
Of the 144 members who voted, Milton said 48 were upset and voted no, 95 per cent said they were slightly upset but still voted yes, and one spoiled the ballot.
Originally transit workers had been looking for pay increases, and measures of job security but negotiators weren’t able to get all those aims met.
No measures of job security were included in the contract, and over three years there will be two years without pay increases and a three per cent hike will kick in for the third year of the contract. Employees will also receive a signing bonus.
“We have to pursue that job security on our own now,” Milton said. “That means we’ll put the bargaining process away and go to the politicians and bureaucrats and hopefully make them see the light.”
BC Transit awarded Kelowna’s transit contact to a company called First Bus, which operates out of Scotland, but Milton said that it doesn’t have to be that way and that’s where the powers that be can work to protect the rights of area bus drivers.
“BC Transit and the city deal with the request for proposals,” he said. “And I still don’t understand why the city isn’t operating this contract themselves, instead of letting First take the profits to Scotland.”
That said, those matters will be put aside for another 18 months, until the union is negotiating the next contract. The BC Transit contract with First Bus continues until 2016.
“In the mean time we’d like to thank the riders for their support and (Lake Country) Mayor James Baker and Kelowna Mayor (Sharon Shepherd),” he said.
Since the contract conflict came to light, the community in addition to area politicians have spoken out for putting an end to the transit strike as soon as possible.