COQUITLAM— Following three days of failed negotiations, CUPE 561 says its members who work for First Transit will commence a full walkout on Monday. HandyDART will operate at essential service levels for passengers requiring treatment for cancer, multiple sclerosis, and renal dialysis. All other transit services in the Fraser Valley will cease indefinitely until a fair deal is reached, the union said.
CUPE 561 President Jane Gibbons described the full shutdown as a result of the company’s intransigence at the table.
“This employer has completely refused to meaningfully discuss the regional wage disparity and lack of a pension,” said Gibbons. “It’s gotten so bad that we’re left with no alternative but to shut down services.”
First Transit, a U.S.-based, for-profit company subcontracted by BC Transit, was recently purchased by Transdev, a global corporation owned by a French sovereign wealth fund that has $1.3 trillion in assets—an amount equal to last year’s GDP for Australia and greater than the GDP of Spain or Indonesia.
“We find it hard to believe that a company with this much wealth refuses to pay our members what other transit operators in this region make. Without fair wages, public transit in the Fraser Valley will continue to suffer,” added Gibbons.
On March 16, BC Transit issued a statement to Fraser Valley Today expressing confidence in Transdev and its subsidiary’s operations in the region.
“Given First Transit’s steadfast refusal to address the concerns of our members, it’s clear that BC Transit’s confidence in Transdev is grossly misplaced. In our mind, BC Transit—a provincial Crown corporation responsible for public transit services—is abandoning the communities it is entrusted to serve. It is leaving our community and transit users at the mercy of a profit-driven foreign conglomerate with no connection to the Fraser Valley.”