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Labour minister says neither party in Fraser Valley transit dispute ready for mediation

Bus system has been idle since March 20 after negotiations broke down between CUPE and First Transit
More than 100 people came out for a public rally at Five Corners in downtown Chilliwack on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 in support of CUPE 561, whose members have now been on the picket lines for a month. (Jenna Hauck/Black Press Media)

Neither side in the Fraser Valley transit strike is ready for mediation, said Labour Minister Harry Bains.

He was speaking to reporters in the legislature in Victoria, when asked about the ongoing labour dispute that has all buses parked between Abbotsford and Hope.

“I fully understand the frustration of those who rely on the service,” he said, which includes students and seniors. “This is a collective bargaining process, and workers do have rights under the constitution to withdraw their services, which they have done.”

He said that he has reached out to both sides in the dispute to “remind them of their responsibility” to get back to the bargaining table. The employer for the transit service in Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope is First Transit, which is an American company contracted through BC Transit to run the regional system.

The employees are represented by CUPE 561 and include mechanics, drivers and other staff within the system.

Bains said any mediation and discussion about whether transit should be considered an essential service would be happening at the labour board, if anywhere. But, he added, he’s offered mediation services to both parties and neither have accepted it.

“Mediation can’t help until they both agree they are ready for mediation,” Bains said.

Some HandyDART services are available for some residents in Abbotsford, including some cancer patients. But the regular buses have been stopped since March 20 in all the communities served by First Transit.

READ MORE: Lunchtime rally in Chilliwack saw striking transit drivers ‘demand to be treated fairly’


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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