Transit in Surrey Photo: Ray Hudson

Vancouver: The union representing bus drivers and other transit staff across Metro Vancouver says if ongoing negotiations don’t produce a deal by midnight Thursday, job action will begin with bans on overtime and uniforms.

A statement from Unifor says starting Friday, transit operators on all routes will refuse to wear uniforms while technicians and skilled trades workers will refuse overtime shifts.

Unifor says the measures are aimed at increasing exposure of the negotiations, while causing little disruption for commuters.

Earlier this month, more than 5,000 members of Unifor locals 111 and 2200, representing bus drivers, SeaBus and maintenance staff, voted 99 per cent in favour of job action against Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates on behalf of TransLink.

Wages, benefits and working conditions are key issues in the dispute.

The last transit strike in Metro Vancouver was in 2001 when a four-month walkout crippled the commute for hundreds of thousands of people.

Unifor officials said the uniform and overtime ban is aimed at starting conversations among passengers about the contract talks, but Unifor Local 2200 president Mike Smith predicted the overtime aspect will quickly increase pressure on bus and SeaBus service.

“The system has normalized overtime, so without it, the turnaround for repairs and other maintenance will build up quickly,” Smith said in the release.

“We trust that TransLink will not put unsafe vehicles back on the road, so it is a question of fewer vehicles available in the system.”

The union said talks with Coast Mountain will continue all day Thursday and into the evening, if necessary.

No one from TransLink was available to comment Wednesday.

The Canadian Press