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VIDEO: Union hopeful for latest proposal in Fraser Valley transit strike

‘Vince Ready is a seasoned mediator’ says CUPE 561 national representative at Abbotsford picket line
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Liam O’Neill, the national representative for CUPE 561’s transit workers, spoke to media Tuesday afternoon at the picket line in Abbotsford. (Jessica Peters/Abbotsford News)

This week marks a potential turning point in the months-long transit strike in the eastern Fraser Valley.

The national representative from CUPE 561 confirmed the union’s bargaining team is satisfied with the latest proposal by mediator Vince Ready. The employer, First Transit, issued a statement on Wednesday that they are prepared to accept Ready’s recommendations “so long as they are ratified by CUPE Local 561 members.”

Ready was called in on June 8 to secure a resolution in the impasse between the two parties. He then applied for an application, which was granted. Transit workers have been on strike since March 20, and the eastern Fraser Valley has been without public transit, including the highway route that connects the region to Metro Vancouver transit routes at Carvolth Exchange in Langley.

Those on the picket line in Abbotsford on Tuesday said that after 121 days of strike action, it can’t come soon enough. The HandyDART drivers added that they miss their clients and can’t wait to get back to serve them.

While the actual details of Ready’s proposal are still under wraps, CUPE 561’s national representative Liam O’Neill told The News they are happy with what he’s proposed. O’Neill spoke at the picket line as they awaited further news from Ready.

“We’ve reviewed the recommendations as a bargaining committee, so we’re ready to take those forward to the members,” he said. “It’s been a long process and pretty thorough. Vince Ready is a seasoned mediator.”

He said it’s difficult to say how long it will take the buses to get back on the road once a deal is struck, but that they are going to “do our level best” to get the buses going again quickly. When the Sea-to-Sky Highway region’s transit workers went on strike in 2022, they were off for 136 days. That was the longest public transit strike in B.C. history.

O’Neill sent out a thanks to the community for their support through the strike, adding that their drivers are “very well connected to the community.”

“We want to thank them for their patience,” he said.

The strike has affected 212 employees, including drivers, maintenance, utility workers and more. They are currently the lowest paid BC Transit workers in the province, and have no pension plan. BC Transit contracts the management of the system to First Transit, which is an American company.

“They took a stand for the right reasons,” he added, so that there is equality for transit workers across the province. “They don’t want this to happen again.”

READ MORE: B.C. labour minister appoints mediator in Fraser Valley transit strike


@CHWKcommunity
jessica.peters@abbynews.com

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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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