Jamie O’Neill of Chilliwack says the transit strike in the eastern Fraser Valley could end up costing him his job in the film industry.
“I am looking at moving out of Chilliwack now because I am screwed,” O’Neill said.
The single dad has been working continuity on a TV show in Vancouver for three years. He actually moved out to the valley secure in the knowledge that route #66 – the Fraser Valley Express – was in place so he could ride into Vancouver when needed.
“It’s not a good situation for people like me who rely on the bus. It’s an essential service.”
At the end of January, and into early February the early transit disruptions were expensive for O’Neill, who described himself as low-income. He does not drive due to medical issues, and both he and his son have disabilities.
“Last month I had to come up with $200 plus to get to work and back, on cabs and Uber.”
Job action by transit workers ramped up Monday (March 20) with CUPE 561 announcing a walkout by drivers and other workers, which suspended all transit routes in the eastern Fraser Valley until further notice.
O’Neill said he is sympathetic to the plight of the transit workers who “should be paid a fair wage, but we shouldn’t have to be the ones suffering because of that,” he said.
The strike came after three days of failed negotiations, in a long negotiation process with First Transit, which operates the service for BC Transit.
The latest five-year contract offer came with salary increase of up to 16 per cent.
BC Transit officials said they are “closely monitoring the situation” since all conventional transit routes in the Fraser Valley were suspended in Aldergrove, Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Agassiz-Harrison and Hope.
BC Transit also apologized to customers for the inconvenience: “We understand the frustration felt by customers, and that the job action is difficult for everyone involved in the region.”
HandyDART is at essential service levels, for those seeking cancer treatment, those with multiple sclerosis, and renal dialysis.
The prospect of being forced to leave Chilliwack is daunting, said O’Neill. He has family close by, with support for his son in school.
“This is costing me so much work. I think they just need to pay the employees. It’s affecting the ridership,” O’Neill said. “It’s going to hurt them.”
(1/4) ⚠️ Central #FraserValley #RiderAlert – CUPE 561 operating under First Transit is taking further strike action on Monday (Mar 20) by suspending service in #Abbotsford #Agassiz #Aldergrove #Chilliwack #HarrisonBC #HopeBC & #MissionBC, including route 66 Fraser Valley Express.— BC Transit (@BCTransit) March 17, 2023
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