Office workers at Coast Mountain Bus vote to strike

COPE local 378 cites demand from TransLink subsidiary for retirement benefit concessions

Unionized administrative and office workers at Coast Mountain Bus Co. have voted 91 per cent in favour of strike action in response to proposed contract concessions they say would reduce retirement benefits.

TransLink’s bus subsidiary wants workers to give up health and other benefits in retirement for a one-time payout of up to $500 per year of service, according to Heather Lee, vice-president of Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) local 378.

She said the amount wouldn’t cover current medical premiums for an individual let alone extended benefits for family dependents.

Lee called the proposed concessions “mean-spirited and unfair.”

Workers with less than 10 years seniority would be forced to take the payout and new hires would get no post-retirement benefits under a new two-tier contract.

Pension provisions are not affected by the CMBC proposal.

Lee called retirement benefits the main barrier to a deal now, adding both sides are close to agreement on most other issues, including wages.

The union has not yet issued strike notice.

“We hope to get back to the table to secure a fair and reasonable agreement,” Lee said.

COPE 378 represents more than 400 Coast Mountain workers, including customer service, training and transit security staff.

“Our intention is to continue to work towards a settlement with COPE,” CMBC vice-president Hunter Rogers said.