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Transit service set for phased-in return to Comox Valley and Campbell River

Community leaders express relief regarding transit strike resolution
Full transit service will resume in the Comox Valley on Feb. 12; HandyDART service resumes Feb. 7. File photo

HandyDART service returns to Campbell River and the Comox Valley tomorrow, and a full slate of transit services will resume Feb. 12, BC Transit says.

The nearly two-month-long transit strike affecting riders in the Comox Valley and Campbell River areas is officially over.

On Feb. 1, Unifor 114 members voted 80 per cent in favour of the new agreement, which was reached by the bargaining committees least week.

“Congratulations to the bargaining committee and to the members for standing strong at the bargaining table and on the picket lines to make a stand for improving public transit,” said Unifor national president Lana Payne.

Community leaders recognized the challenges faced by residents in the past two months.

“Both at the Comox Valley Regional District and City of Courtenay I spoke about the frustration and devastating impact the transit strike had on our citizens, eroding their trust and confidence in a transit system we are trying to grow,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells. “I’m happy that it was resolved relatively quickly compared to other jurisdictions, but communication between BC Transit and our local elected officials needs to be better. The motion I put forward at the CVRD was passed and I look forward to meetings with BC Transit and local elected officials to begin creating better communication as we ramp up local and Island-wide routes to make public transportation more convenient and effective.”

Cumberland Mayor Vickey Brown said the strike put a lot of pressure on the community.

“Recognizing our ongoing efforts to promote transit as an affordable option for our residents, the recent strike has been an unexpected challenge,” she said. “I empathize with the frustration our residents experienced navigating daily life without reliable transportation to work and school. I am grateful for the strike’s positive resolution and am eager to strengthen our commitment to an affordable, dependable transit system that meets the needs of our community.”

Comox Mayor Nicole Minions said the local governments had very little power when it came to a resolution.

“The strike has lasted for much of the winter and affected 100s of passengers and those working with Pacific Western (PW) Transit,” she said.

“It’s a challenge when as a local government, our only option is advocacy when it affects our constituents and people we know. This (resolution) is good news; I hope we see riders back to school, work and appointments on their regular routes soon.”

Before service resumes all buses must undergo a thorough inspection, cleaning and on road testing for return to service. It’s also important for transit operators to refresh their training to ensure a safe resumption of service, BC TRansit says. This is standard procedure when resuming operations after a certain amount of time away from day-to-day service.

For information on service in each community, check the Rider’s Guide or visit the local system websites. Customers in the region can also use the Transit App for real-time bus tracking and the latest routes and schedule information.

Deal details

According to a statement on the Unifor website, wages will increase in this contract at 9.5 per cent in the first year, 3.5 per cent in the second year and 2.54 per cent in the last year.

And as of April 1, 2026, all job classifications will get a wage adjustment of 83 cents an hour.

The new agreement also stipulates that the employer will pay 2.75 per cent of gross wages into the union group RRSP after the probation period. And that the RRSP will increase to four per cent on April 1, 2024, if employees match the employer’s contribution at minimum.

A $5/hour premium will be paid for driver trainers (one per depot) while performing training duties. The employer will establish dedicated driver trainers.

Mechanic and apprentice members also received a substantial $900 tool allowance each year.

“Our members are looking forward to returning to work, proudly servicing the Comox Valley and Campbell River communities,” said Unifor Local 114 President Gord McGrath. “We’re pleased to finally have a contract that speaks to our members’ needs and creates a proper work-life-balance for them.”

Workers at PWTransit withdrew bus services on Dec. 15, 2023. The 75 Unifor Local 114 members work as transit operators, HandyDART operators, mechanics, and cleaners.

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 14 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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