Vancouver prepares for SkyTrain strike

RELATED TOPICS: TRANSIT | CANADA | LABOR RELATIONS
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An Expo Line SkyTrain stops at the Main Street/Science World station in April 2018. The Expo Line is one of two SkyTrain routes that will be shut down by a strike beginning Tuesday.
Scott A. Hartley

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Workers on Vancouver’s SkyTrain rail system are scheduled to go on strike Tuesday morning, setting off some heated rhetoric between the union and operators BC Rapid Transit Co.

The strike is scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. Tuesday and end at 5 a.m. Friday.

CTV news quotes a spokesman for transit agency TransLink as questioning why the union has chosen a “nuclear option … which is going to cause enormous disruption.”

Tony Rebelo, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 700, said the union chose the full walkout because of concerns that there would not be enough staff to handle an emergency station. The TransLink spokesman, Ben Murphy, called that “a nonsense argument,” prompting Rebelo to say his comments were “inaccurate” and “incendiary. … Such comments bout our members do nothing to further bargaining and on the contrary have slowed down the process.”

While the SkyTrain system features driverless operation, the union represents about 900 workers, including operators, administrators, and maintenance and technical staff needed to maintain operations. The strike will shut down two of the three SkyTrain lines, the Millennium Line and Expo Line. The Canada Line, and West Coast Express commuter trains, will not be affected.

About 150,000 riders use the SkyTrain system on an average weekday. The rail strike will come just days after the union representing bus and ferry workers ratified a new contract, ending almost a month of strike activity, although that action stopped short of a full shutdown.

— Updated at 10:45 a.m. CST on Dec. 9 to note driverless operation.

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