On the Picket Line

British Columbia bus drivers strike enters fifth week

By Ned Dmytryshyn
and Beverly Bernardo
May 22, 2023

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia — “Every day we’re out we become more determined. The support we get on cold wet days means a lot to us,” picket organizer Elizabeth Roux told more than 100 striking members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 561 and supporters at a solidarity picnic here sponsored by the Fraser Valley District Council of CUPE April 22.

The 213 bus drivers and mechanics went on strike March 20, setting up picket lines in the Fraser Valley region. The main issues are wages, humane scheduling and a pension plan.

“Our wages are 42% behind bus drivers in the Vancouver area. With rising costs we’re falling further and further behind and long-time members can’t afford to retire,” Roux told the Militant. She’s been a driver and trainer for 12 years.

Members from other CUPE locals, the United Steelworkers, International Association of Machinists, and  the Public Service Alliance of Canada joined the rally.

“When we get together and build support for each other, we have a lot of power,” said Doug Smith, a shop steward for IAM Local 11, who delivered a message of support and a gift card of $50.

Raj, a driver we met at the First Transit Abbotsford yard picket line, said split shifts are a key issue. “You work from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. You aren’t paid for the four hours in between,” he said. “It’s difficult to go back home to rest and then come back. Your day is 13 hours long and you get paid for eight. It’s terrible for family life.”

Sara and James Strocel and their son, Gavin, brought coffee and donuts to the picket line.. “In the 16 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve been on the picket line at least three times,” said Sara, who teaches at the Clayburn Middle School. “We wanted to let them know they are supported.”