Fraser Valley bus drivers give strike notice, could stop collecting fares Thursday

Strike notice served to company that operates B.C. Transit in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, surrounding region

The union representing transit bus drivers in B.C.’s Fraser Valley has issued  72-hours strike notice and could stop collecting fares starting Thursday.

CUPE 561 served the strike notice to First Transit, the contracted company that operates B.C. Transit services in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and the surrounding region.

The union says it will be in a legal strike position as of 3 p.m. on Thursday, at which point drivers will stop collecting fares.

A statement says two days of full service withdrawal, excluding HandyDART services, are slated for Feb. 27 and 28, with “further escalation anticipated in the weeks to follow if a deal cannot be reached.”

Local union president Jane Gibbons says its transit operators do the same work as those in other regions but don’t receive the same pay. 

The union says its members make 32 per cent less than transit workers across the Lower Mainland, with no pension plan and long hours of standby time for which they receive less than $3 per hour.

“We’re trying to make everybody aware  — the employer and the community — that just because it says B.C. Transit on those buses does not mean that everybody gets paid the same,” Gibbons said.

First Transit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union has 213 members, including drivers, utility workers, bus washers and mechanics.

It says the two sides have engaged in more than 20 days of bargaining since talks began in late spring 2022.

Gibbons says the union is ready to return to the bargaining table.

“We’re hoping that they are going to address affordability and wages for our members,” she said. “That’s what we’re looking for — to sit down and discuss this fairly and equitably.”