Metro Vancouver transit strike Day 9 as Service back to normal as long weekend begins - Canadanewsmedia
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Metro Vancouver transit strike Day 9 as Service back to normal as long weekend begins

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Metro Vancouver transit riders could start breathing a sigh of relief Saturday as bus and SeaBus service returned to normal for the start of the long weekend amid ongoing transit worker job action.

As of Saturday morning, no routes or sailings were impacted by the maintenance overtime ban that has been in place for nine days now, along with a uniform ban for bus and SeaBus operators.

TransLink does have a long list of bus route alerts due to maintenance and other issues, but the transit authority has confirmed none of them are related to the job action.


READ MORE:
Metro Vancouver transit strike — Here’s how your commute may be affected

Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) president Michael McDaniel said Saturday the transit system runs at a reduced capacity on weekends, ideally leaving it enough wiggle room to prevent any cancellations until Tuesday.

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“Come Tuesday we’ll be back to the workweek, so we’ll be telling commuters to pay attention to all the channels we have, primarily transit alerts but also Twitter,” he said. “We’ll keep people as up to speed as we can on what those service disruptions are.”

The break comes after a day of headaches for commuters Friday, when at least 25 bus routes saw service reductions and 16 SeaBus sailings were cancelled.

The union representing bus drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers said there were more than 60 route segments affected.

More service affected by overtime ban as transit strike continues

SkyTrain is not affected by the contract dispute.

McDaniel said with more disruptions looming, the union is being urged to return to the negotiating table.

“We formally did invite them a couple days ago now. That has not been met with a positive response yet,” he said.

“But we’re hopeful that at some point they’ll come back. We want to talk to them about a number of things, but primarily on the working conditions that they’ve said is one of their top priorities.”

The union has repeatedly said bus operators feel stretched by the overcrowded transit system, and want minimum breaks built into their contract along with an increase in wages.

McDaniel said addressing concerns over working conditions is “complicated,” but insisted the company still wants to work through the issues and come up with a solution.

“We have some new ideas on how to do it, but we need a conversation to be able to do that,” he said. “As we’ve said, we haven’t finished bargaining. We need to finish bargaining. Nothing is off the table.”

Unifor western director Gavin McGarrigle said Friday the union will be happy to head back to the table as soon as the company tells them they’re prepared to talk about working conditions, but so far that hasn’t happened.

“Instead what they’re doing is [going] out there blaming the workers and really not addressing the key issues,” he said.

“We’re not interested in games. We’re interested in serious negotiations to talk about, why is it that SkyTrain skilled trades workers are paid more than Coast Mountain? … Why is it that Toronto transit operators are paid almost $3 more?”

CMBC says meeting the union’s wage demands would cost the company $680 million across 10 years. The union has called for a 15 per cent wage increase over four years.

The company’s latest counter-offer provides $71 million across 10 years, calling it “fiscally responsible.” McDaniel said Saturday that offer is not their final one, and is prepared to draw up new proposals through bargaining.

McGarrigle has said any further job action won’t happen until after Remembrance Day. He said the next step would likely be an overtime ban for bus operators, which he predicted would immediately eliminate 10 to 15 per cent of service across the region.

Any escalation would come with 24 to 48 hours notice, he said.

Earlier this week, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province would not intervene in the dispute, but he vowed Thursday he wouldn’t let the strike drag on for months like in 2001.

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City reacts to Aurora Cannabis announcement

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“I’ve been talking a lot about Aurora around Medicine Hat since April of 2018 and celebrating the fact that they came here, chose us over Quebec or anywhere else in Canada they could have gone, and what a great thing it is for the community and the jobs and just the optimism,” he said. “I’ve sensed an increase of optimism in the community.

“When I heard this news yesterday, it was a setback, and I’m disappointed. They’re a private company, this has nothing to do with the City of Medicine Hat. They’re free to make any decision they need to make.”

In its report, Aurora cited lower than expected revenue from cannabis as a reason for the decision.

The decision about the construction will save Aurora a total of $190 million dollars.

Lisa Kowalchuk, executive director of the Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce, says she believes Aurora remains committed to Medicine Hat.

“Aurora has very much been committed to our community and very invested in our community,” she said. “They re very engaged within our community and with our chamber. So I don’t see them going away anytime soon.”

CHAT News attempted to speak with Aurora Cannabis on Friday, but were instead provided a statement, which clarified its position from Thursday.

“There has been no halt to construction at the facility,” wrote Michelle Lefler, VP Communications at Aurora, on Friday. “We are continuing to build with adjusted timelines that are more closely aligned with how cannabis markets develop.

The statement continues, “We expect to have at least six flower rooms completed and in operation in 2020, for a total of 238,000 square feet, which includes the mother room. As was done with Aurora Sky and is the case with all Sky-Class facilities, we will pursue a phased approach to bringing additional grow rooms online, and still intend to build 30 grow rooms at Sun.”

“Additional operations at the facility will be activated as global demand develops, with a target date for full operations in 2021. Previously, we had intended to build at an accelerated speed. This is a more normalized pace for a project of this size and is aligned with how markets are growing.”

The company adds they remain committed to investment in Medicine Hat, and still intends to hire around 800 people to work at the facility once its completed.

Clugston adds he remains optimistic about the facility being completed.

We remain committed to investment in the Medicine Hat community as planned. At this time, we still intend to hire a final staff complement of around 800 people upon facility completion. We want to make sure that all local and government partners continue to work with us to support our commitments to significant investment in Alberta’s economy.

“As an optimist, they’ve shown interest and invested obviously a lot of money in the facility, and I really do hope and believe that it will be up and running at 100 per cent,” he said.

Clugston says council will meet with Aurora executives in a closed-door session prior to Monday’s city council meeting. He adds the meeting was planned before Thursday’s announcement.

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CN conductors union gives 72-hour strike notice

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Canadian National Railways conductors, trainpersons and yardpersons have given strike notice ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

The union, which represents 3,200 workers, provided the 72-hour notice today as contract negotiations continue over the weekend.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference warned in October it was prepared to launch job action after over six months of unsuccessful talks.

A strike could begin at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 19 now that the notice has been provided.

The company says its offer to enter into binding arbitration was declined by the union.

The workers, who are mostly located in major urban centres across Canada, have been without a contract since July 23.

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CN Rail confirms layoffs

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CN Rail has made the “difficult decision” to lay off an unspecified number of workers and take other measures to reflect demand.

A spokesperson for CN said some employees would be placed on furlough and management and union job numbers would be cut “due to a weakening of many sectors of the economy.”

“These adjustments have already started to take place across the network,” senior media relations adviser Alexandre Boulé said in an emailed statement.

“CN would like to express gratitude to the employees who will be leaving the company and thank them for their service.”

He would not confirm how many jobs would be affected.

The news was first reported by the Globe and Mail on Friday afternoon, citing a source that was not authorized to speak publicly. The Globe reported that there would be roughly 1,600 job losses in North America.

According to its website, CN transports more than $250 billion worth of goods annually across its 32,000-kilometre rail network within Canada and the U.S.

The company says it has about 24,000 staff.

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