Kelowna transit workers will figure out by the end of April whether they’ll be parking local buses as a means of wrangling for what they call a fair contract.
“We have applied for mediation with First Bus, the company that operates the contract for B.C. Transit, and that will happen April 27 or 28,” said Les Milton, president of the Amalgamated Transit union, after a 95 per cent membership vote rejecting the latest contract offer.
“Then, after that, we’ll go to our membership and discuss next steps…but this group of employees has done everything we can do to stave off a strike.”
Milton said the mediation is a last-ditch effort to make contract talks work.
The crux of the matter, he explained, is that the company that operates the B.C. Transit contract is treating drivers as though they’re government employees, while receiving none of the benefits extended to public sector employees.
“When you talk about the government employees versus contracted out employees, we’re it,” he explained. “That means our contract is meagre compared to the BC Transit—we have lower wages, not as good benefits, no pension plan—so to turn around and say they’re bound by government restraint is laughable.”
All of those things, he said, may be acceptable if there was any form of job security, but that’s off the table as well.
So when the contract offering two years with no pay increases, and a third year waiting on government approval, was presented it fell below the acceptable standard.
“We’re pretty tight on increases in job security and wages,” he said.
In the meantime, Milton would like to see city politicians and the public show their support.
“It’s funny, the District of Lake Country has been nothing but supportive, and more progressive than the thriving city of Kelowna,” he said. “They’ve sent letters to BC Transit saying drivers should be kept.”