The end's in sight for transit strike

By Keith Fraser, The Province, Wednesday 1 August 2001

Liberals set to order drivers back to work—and soon Lower Mainland buses, idled by a bitter four-month-old strike, could be running again early next week.

The Liberals are expected to introduce a bill today that would order bus drivers back to work.

The bill, details of which were approved by cabinet last night, could pass as early as tomorrow.

Transit officials say it would take four or five days to get the system ready to roll again, meaning bus service may resume as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Labour Minister Graham Bruce, whose government has been under pressure to act, gave no details last night of the back-to-work bill.

We're not intending to let it go on much longer, Bruce said before the 6:30 p.m. cabinet meeting.

The government has not ruled out an imposed settlement or binding arbitration to end the dispute.

We want to get the buses rolling again in downtown Vancouver, said Bruce. The union and the management team have pretty much indicated that they can't solve it themselves and they're asking us to step into it.

Hopefully we can do that very quickly and get some peace and order back to downtown.

Said Premier Gordon Campbell: I think it's time for the public transit system to made available again to the public.

Canadian Auto Workers Union president Don MacLeod hopes the government accepts mediator Vince Ready's report, which was endorsed by the drivers but rejected by Coast Mountain Bus Co.

It's really hard to pinpoint or have an idea of what approach they're going to take. We can only hope they will take a reasonable and common sense approach to it.

Coast Mountain spokesman George Garrett said options include a modified Ready report or a 60-day cooling off period.

We certainly rejected the Ready report. That wouldn't be one of the options we'd favor. The others, we'll just wait and see.

The other union in the dispute, the inside and security workers, was in talks with Coast Mountain and Ready last night.

We're like everybody else, said Andy Ross, local vice-president of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. We're waiting to see what the provincial government does or does not do.

He said he assumes the legislation will also order his members back to work.

The 123-day strike is B.C.'s longest transit stoppage but far short of Canada's longest, the nine-month strike that paralyzed Quebec City in 1981.


An overwhelming majority of respondents to last week's Province online poll supported government intervention to end the Greater Vancouver transit strike.

The question:

—Should the provincial government pass back-to-work legislation to end the transit strike?

A total of 1,687 people, or 80 per cent, answered Yes, while 394 (19 per cent) said No. Another 32 (two per cent) said they were not sure.

When a similar question was asked shortly after the strike began in early April, 64 per cent of respondents favoured government intervention.

This week, Canada became the first country in the world to legalize doctor-prescribed marijuana for people suffering from terminal illnesses and chronic conditions that produce severe pain.

Many patients say marijuana relieves their pain, but some doctors' groups warn that the drug's effects have not been properly studied.


Note: These are informal, non-scientific polls.