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Striking Fraser Valley bus drivers plan public rally Wednesday

Union denies First Transit civil suit claim that workers committed ‘unlawful acts’ on picket lines
In a video posted on the CUPE Local 561 website in March 2023, First Transit bus driver “Andy” video says he and his co-workers are stressed due to “rock-bottom wages. (CUPE Local 561 video crop)

The transit strike in the Eastern Fraser Valley is ramping up after three weeks with no bus service from Abbotsford to Hope.

On Wednesday (April 12) at noon, CUPE 561 transit workers are planning a public rally at Five Corners in Chilliwack.

Also this week, a hearing should be held in B.C. Supreme Court with the union responding to a civil claim filed by the employer, First Transit, which claims workers are committing “unlawful acts” during picketing.

READ MORE: First Transit seeks court injunction against workers picketing in Abbotsford and Chilliwack

First Transit alleges that union members have been obstructing vehicles and people from entering and leaving bus yards in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and that they have “intimidated, coerced, threatened, harassed and interfered with” their employees, contractors and others.

A CUPE spokesperson told Black Press Monday that the union would not comment other than to say that they dispute the claims.

“Our members are engaged in peaceful picketing as they are entitled to do under the Charter,” the spokesperson, who asked not to be named, said via email.

“These allegations by First Transit have not been decided upon by the court. The union has yet to file its response. The matter was set for a hearing on Thursday last week but, due to time allocation, had to be rescheduled and should be heard sometime this week.”

The company is seeking an interim and permanent injunction, as well as general and special damages.

CUPE 561 represents approximately 210 First Transit employees, including drivers, mechanics, utility people and bus washers.

The union has been on full strike since March 20, before which they engaged in several three-day shut-downs and other job actions, including not collecting fares.

The affected communities are Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Hope.

The union’s campaign to gain public support includes social media, press releases, and a website, which includes several short videos from bus drivers.

“We are under stress,” one driver named Andy says in one video. “Everything has gone up in life you know, but our wages are still rock bottom.”

Transit drivers in the Fraser Valley are asking for, among other things, a 32-per-cent pay increase to bring them in line with what transit drivers are paid in Metro Vancouver.

The strike is also causing serious issues for students, workers who rely on bus service, and HandyDART users.

READ MORE: ‘How can they cripple the city this way?’ Chilliwack senior asks about Fraser Valley transit strike

READ MORE: Transit users in Fraser Valley losing money, shifts, jobs as ongoing strike keeps buses parked

with files from Vikki Hopes

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Transit drivers with CUPE Local 561 on strike on the picket line on Yale Road West in Chilliwack on April 5, 2023. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)