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UPDATE: Transit strike threat looms in Greater Victoria

Commuters are holding their breath as Greater Victoria bus drivers square off against BC Transit in contract negotiations.

More than 650 bus drivers, skilled trades and maintenance workers in Greater Victoria issued strike notice last Friday, but the union representing the workers has promised to give 24-hour notice before any service disruptions take place.

"We'd like to think that's not going to happen, that BC Transit would soon be contacting us and looking to return to the table," said Ben Williams, Canadian Auto Worker local 333 president.

"But if that's not the case, then we would be moving forward with some sort of job action in the near future."

The two sides remain at an impasse over wage increases and benefits, which are not in line with the B.C. government's net zero mandate, said BC Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton.

"We asked the bargaining committee to go and speak to other unions. There seems to be a lack of understanding about what the co-operative gains mandate is," she said.

The negotiating mandate requires unions to offset any wage increases with cost savings and productivity gains in other areas.

Both the B.C. Nurses Union and B.C. Government Employees Union have come to tentative contract agreements under the mandate.

"Our agreement is exactly in line with the nurses, the BCGEU and we're still surprised we're sitting at this impasse," Burton said.

No specific bargaining details are being provided by either side, but both Williams and BC Transit have expressed a desire to return to negotiations.

Greater Victoria transit operators last took strike action in April 2001. The strike lasted 14 days.

HandyDART drivers are under a separate collective agreement and are not part of the job action.

Look for the latest service updates at bctransit.com.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

 

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