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PHOTOS: Striking Sea to Sky transit drivers rally in Whistler

Parties to resume bargaining next week; Whistler, Squamish mayors seek meeting with the province

Sea to Sky transit drivers—now in their third week of job action—rallied in Whistler Village on Friday, Feb. 18.

The workers gathered at the gondola base at noon before marching to Whistler's municipal hall, then up and down the Village Stroll.

Workers carried signs and banners, with many chanting "one day longer, one day stronger!"

Transit operators in the corridor have been on strike since Saturday, Jan. 29, when transit services in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish were suspended, except for Squamish’s handyDART service, which is deemed essential and will continue to operate with full service hours on weekdays. 

The job action is necessary as BC Transit’s contractors “refuse to close the pay gap for Whistler-area transit operators,” according to Unifor, the union representing the workers. Whistler and Squamish transit workers make anywhere between $3 and $5 an hour less than their counterparts in Vancouver and Victoria, according to the union.

More details about the bargaining efforts have been difficult to come by, as representatives for contractor Whistler Transit Ltd. told Pique they are not permitted by BC Transit to comment.* Meanwhile, BC Transit has deferred any media requests for comment to the negotiating parties. Workers themselves are also unable to comment on the record with the job action ongoing.

“Talks have broken down because there’s a complete unwillingness on the part of the employer to recognize how far behind transit workers in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish are to many of those other areas, including Greater Vancouver,” said Chris MacDonald, assistant to national Unifor president Jerry Dias, in an interview with Pique last week.

In a release on Friday afternoon, Feb. 18, Pacific Western Transit, Whistler Transit's parent company, said it reached out to the union's lead negotiator "and asked if there was any interest by the union to resume bargaining, with the intent that both sides would make an earnest effort and be willing to move off of their positions to try and achieve a reasonable deal."

The offer was formally made on Wednesday, Feb. 15, and the union responded on Friday. "They have agreed and the meeting is proposed to commence sometime next week," the release said.

Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton and Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott are seeking a meeting with provincial Minister of Labour Harry Bains to discuss the ongoing strike, according to the Resort Municipality of Whistler—though nothing has been arranged yet.

Click through the photos from today's rally—all taken by Oisin McHugh Photography—and check back with Pique next week for more on the ongoing strike.

*An earlier version of this article stated that representatives for Whistler Transit Ltd. had not returned Pique's request for comment. In fact, a representative for Pacific Western Transit did respond, but said they were not permitted by BC Transit to provide comment.