Pacific Coach Lines workers could strike Saturday 

Bargaining continues while company has issued lockout notice

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Pacific Coach Lines workers could go on strike as early as this Saturday, putting in jeopardy the company's bus service between Vancouver and Whistler.

The Canadian Auto Workers Local 114, the union for Pacific Coach Lines workers, issued a news release Tuesday morning stating that it had issued a 72-hour strike notice to Pacific Coach Lines. The union has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2010, meaning if there is no contract by then workers will be on strike.

Talks involving a mediator began Wednesday morning.

"We are seeking a fair agreement for the workers who have made PCL the success it is today," Gavin McGarrigle, national representative for the CAW, said in a news release. "A strike at PCL will likely lead to a complete shutdown of operations in Victoria, Vancouver and Whistler."

The union represents 127 workers, including drivers, mechanics, service staff and ticket agents, who are now seeking a new collective bargaining agreement to address issues such as wages, benefits, pension contributions and job security.

The company responded by issuing a 72-hour lockout notice at 9:33 a.m. Tuesday, meaning that employees can't come to work unless they accept what the company offers them as far as a new contract.

"Both parties have made it clear to one another that the collective bargaining process should continue," Darian Tooley, PCL's director of sales and marketing, said in an interview. "We hope to come to an agreement prior to any labour disruptions and both parties are looking forward to resolving their outstanding issues as quickly as possible."

The last contract expired March 31, 2009.

The workers, however, have more issues than simply wages and job security they hope to discuss with the company during collective bargaining.

McGarrigle said in an interview that workers are concerned that PCL's board of directors runs a non-unionized company called Cantrail Coach Lines in the same markets with the same types of equipment.

He said Cantrail has been helping with overload on the Whistler to Vancouver Airport route and that PCL is effectively "double-breasting" by using a non-union company to do the same work as unionized workers.

"We have a contracting out clause in our collective agreement that stops the company from contracting out as long as they have equipment and drivers," McGarrigle said. "If they run out of equipment and drivers, they can contract out.

"In a case where PCL owns the same company, are they contracting out or are they contracting to themselves?"

Asked how the strike could impact Olympic service, McGarrigle said it could have a major impact.

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