City buses were on the road today after transit users were advised Friday to find alternative transportation options in light of a potential strike.
The Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU), representing transit workers, served strike notice Friday as mediation talks (with both the transit union and the union representing other city workers) were underway.
The two sides were unable to reach an agreement by the time talks ended late Friday night.
The union served the mandatory 72 hours’ potential strike notice. The city advised transit users to seek other options for getting around.
Early this afternoon, the city said the following buses will not be running today:
• the 2:20 p.m. Copper Ridge-Granger route;
• the 4:20 p.m. Riverdale North route;
• the 3:40 p.m. Porter Creek express route, with transit users advised to take the #4 bus at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. instead; and
• the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Porter Creek-Crestview route, with transit users advised to take the Porter Creek express bus at 5:40 p.m., 6:40 p.m. or 7 p.m. instead.
YEU president Steve Geick noted Sunday that after speaking with the union membership, it was decided that a work-to-rule campaign would begin this morning rather than full strike action.
“No transit worker will be doing any overtime,” Geick commented.
“Casuals will not be accepting extra shifts, and everyone will be very punctual when they come to and leave work.
“All coffee breaks and lunches will be taken when scheduled.”
That could mean buses pulling over at the scheduled break or end of shift and letting passengers off there rather than finishing up all the stops before a break or shift end.
In a statement this morning, the union said it had put forward an offer for settlement with an amended economic package to reach an agreement with the city, while still working to protect provisions of the agreement that would improve wages and working conditions for members.
“Our goal during this round of bargaining has always been to resolve problems and improve wages and working conditions for our members,” Geick said.
“We have worked very hard to reach a deal this week, but we cannot be expected to give up on a fair deal that includes economic and retirement security for our members.”
The union says it is “asking members to continue to show support for its bargaining teams and to let city council know that its municipal employees deserve a fair deal.”
Mayor Dan Curtis is out of town and has not been available for comment on the situation.
City spokesman Myles Dolphin said this morning the union has not presented the city with any counter-offer since last fall on the two issues of long service awards and severance pay that it continues to take issue with.
No new employees would be eligible for long service awards, but they would continue for anyone hired by the city in any position prior to ratification, the city has said.
Dolphin pointed out this is in line with what is offered to city managers. It also aligns with agreements the Yukon government, the Village of Haines Junction and Yukon Hospitals, among others, have with their employees.
The proposal for severance pay would also apply only to new employees with those who are laid off or who retire eligible to receive severence.
Dolphin said there also remains a large gap between the city and union on the proposed pay package.
It’s anticipated the two sides will be back to the table in mid-April, the next available date the mediator is available as talks over the weekend ended when time ran out.
The city is looking forward to getting back to the bargaining table, Dolphin said.
In the meantime, the city is anticipating there will be delays and disruptions in the bus service. It will be updating its social media pages and website to keep the public up to date, Dolphin said.
“It’s unfortunate this (work-to-rule) action is impacting the public,” he said.
Last week’s mediation came after conciliation talks broke down in February. Contracts for both unions ended Aug. 31, 2017.
Negotiations for a new deal began last October.
Under the current contract transit wages range between $25.75 and $35.25 per hour.
Other city workers are paid anywhere between $12.35 and $52.73 per hour. The amount depends on the position, level of training and years of service.
The city’s last transit strike lasted four months, beginning in late 2000 and extending into 2001.