UPDATE: 9 a.m.
The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1722 and First Transit will enter binding arbitration to end the months-long labor dispute that effectively shut down much of Kelowna’s regional transit system today.
At a press conference on Wednesday morning, local president Al Peressini said the operator had agreed late Tuesday evening to enter binding arbitration.
It came more than a month after Peressini said the company had rejected a similar offer from the union.
“We met yesterday. We continued negotiations until 10 a.m. We again offered binding arbitration and after some back and forth they finally agreed to binding arbitration,” Peressini told the conference call. Wednesday press release.
“What this means for public transport service, from tomorrow we resume regular service and we will continue.
“But, we will not give up the fight to get rid of privatization. We believe in putting the public back on public transit. The system is broken, it needs to be fixed and we will continue our fight to fix it. “
Peressini says there is no specific timeline as to when an arbitrator will hear the case.
“Lawyers for both parties need to get together and agree on an arbitrator, get their hands on the arbitrator, and then he provides dates. I don’t anticipate once we get to the arbitrator that it’s going to be very long, it’s just having a place with him.”
He adds that the odds of getting what they want are still 50/50 when a referee is involved, but thinks they have a better chance that way.
“The company told us the money was there, they just don’t want to give it away, that’s why we went that route.”
In a brief statement, First Transit acknowledged that binding arbitration had been agreed to and apologized to the public for the disruption of service today.
BC Transit has confirmed that Kelowna Regional Transit buses will operate again on Thursday.
The transit authority says the ATU 1722 union and First Transit have agreed to use binding arbitration to resolve their current labor dispute.
Transit service will resume from 5:28 a.m. Thursday.
“BC Transit sincerely apologizes for the temporary disruption of service today,” BC Transit said in a news release.
“We remind customers that the Handy/DART service for passengers requiring transportation to kidney dialysis, cancer treatment, multiple sclerosis and other specialist appointments has been deemed essential and will continue to operate for this service interruption today.”
UPDATE: 7:30 a.m.
An all-out strike by Kelowna transit workers appears to have been averted.
Mayor Colin Basran tweeted this morning that members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722 and First Transit have agreed to binding arbitration to reach a new collective agreement.
“This means full transit service will continue again tomorrow,” Basran wrote.
The union and the company have yet to issue statements on the development.
ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.
People relying on public transit in the central Okanagan are stuck starting today.
The escalation of union actions by unionized drivers culminates today in a general strike.
Members of the amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722 will walk the picket lines after a last-minute meeting Tuesday between the union and employer First Transit failed to resolve the dispute.
The union has scheduled an 8 a.m. press conference with Mayor Colin Basran.
Drivers are pushing for a pay rise and say they can’t retain staff under current compensation packages. Employer First Transit said on Tuesday it had offered drivers nine per cent over three years.
First Transit says its wage proposal would result in overall wage increases of about 24% over the past twelve years. The Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator pegs inflation at 30.7% over the same period.
BC Transit, the Crown agency responsible for providing transit service outside Metro Vancouver, says it is “monitoring the situation closely” but not getting involved.
“We understand the frustration felt by customers and that action at work is difficult for everyone involved in the region,” BC Transit said in a statement Tuesday evening.
BC Transit contracts bus services for the central Okanagan to First Transit.
Some, like Loyal Wooldridge, chairman of the board of RDCO, have argued for BC Transit to bring the service in-house and drop the contractor when its contract expires in March 2023. BC Transit declined to comment on this possibility during the dispute. of work.
The handyDART service for customers requiring transport to kidney dialysis, cancer treatment, multiple sclerosis and other specialist appointments has been deemed essential and will continue to operate during the strike. All other pre-booked trips will be notified of the cancellation.
Work action ATU 1722 will also not impact service on Route 90 UBCO/Vernon from the Vernon Regional Transit System, or Route 70 Penticton/Kelowna from the South Transit System. Okanagan-Similkameen, which will provide regular service.
Photo: Colin Dacre