There is no joy in the board rooms of BC Transit this week. As I write this column, employees are still threatening to strike. After six months of failed contract negotiations and four years of watching non-unionized superiors take home substantial raises, leaving nothing for front-line workers, this should surprise no one.
After continuing to work despite being paid some of the lowest wages for transit employees in the country. After being shot down by transit officials who refuse to even entertain the idea of negotiations with the Auto Workers Union. After all of this, the only surprise should be that the mechanics and drivers at BC Transit have continued to show up and ferry you and I around for this long.
While most of the speculation around transit this week has revolved around the impact any potential job action could have on the morning commute, it’s a proposal from BC Transit staff that should have riders — along with everyone else in the region — wringing their hands.
Staff are seeking public input on a proposal to raise fares as high as $3 per person.
The options on the table include minor increases across the board, major increases to adult fares, or elimination of discounted youth and senior fares.
All of the new options include raising fares for youth and seniors, and none will save the region from a substantial hike in property taxes.
In fact, regardless of which fare increase transit chooses — and maintaining current prices is not an option — officials say the region will see a tax increase of 7.3 to 8.4 per cent.
While regular transit users may have to carpool to work or UVic for a few weeks, the current labour dispute will have next to no long-term effect on the region. Officials say any wage increases won through this dispute won’t even impact proposed fares.
In the meantime, fare increases will weigh heavily on riders’ already strained wallets and an 8-per-cent property tax increase brings with it higher rents and leaner times.
While eyes are trained on Transit brass as they gleefully ignore both public worries over mobility impacts and union pleas for a return to negotiations, the future of our region is taking shape in the dull grey board rooms of BC Transit. M