Negotiations are set to resume in the lengthy Sea to Sky transit strike, now 110 days long.
In a release Wednesday, May 18, Unifor, the union representing local transit workers, said employer Pacific Western Transportation (PWT) has agreed to meet again with a mediator on May 27 to negotiate an end to a job action that began Jan. 29.
“Mediation in the context of free collective bargaining is how this dispute is going to be solved,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor's WesternrRegional director, in the release. “We’re eager to get back to the bargaining table and find a resolution as soon as possible.”
Achieving wage parity with transit operators in Vancouver remains the major hurdle to cross.
On May 11—only the fourth full day of bargaining since the strike began—PWT offered two settlement package options: One containing an agreement on wage increases in Year 1 and 2 of a five-year deal, along with meeting the union’s demands on pension and benefits. This package also included an agreement that both parties would enter binding arbitration regarding wage increases in Year 3, 4 and 5 of the deal.
PWT said the second option contained higher guaranteed wage increases over the span of the five-year deal and a conversion from the company’s contribution pension plan to the union’s preferred, defined benefit pension plan.
The union, in turn, said for the first time it offered to delay wage parity with Coast Mountain Bus Company workers in Vancouver until April 2024, but said PWT refused.
Another option presented by Unifor would have slightly modified one of PWT's recent offers of a signing bonus, but converted to wages spread out over the five years of the agreement, “leaving the parties only $0.25 per hour apart on transit drivers’ wages in 2024,” Unifor said. The union said PWT turned down this offer as well.
“Negotiations on May 11 moved the parties closer to a deal,” said McGarrigle in today's release. “I’m confident that, if the employer can creatively acknowledge a reasonable roadmap to wage parity during the life of the next agreement, we’ll have a deal.”
Both parties met independently with the Minister of Labour Harry Bains this week, Unifor said, adding that the minister has not appointed a special mediator with the associated restrictions as recently requested by the employer.