A transit strike — for and against

Op-eds Opinions

PRO-STRIKE – Katherine Goertz

If the bus drivers went on strike, I’d be willing to get behind them.

I don’t know about you, but I would never want to drive a bus. Driving a car stresses me out enough that I intentionally moved to a city where I could rely on transit, so I have the utmost respect for the men and women who ferry me around every day.

That being said, our transit system is not perfect. The schedule often seems like no more than a loose suggestion, and during certain times of day, stepping on the bus can feel like you are cramming yourself into a can of sardines. But how are there supposed to be any changes made to our transit system if drivers aren’t allowed to strike? We all know that money rarely seems to “trickle down” from those in the higher levels of administration to those providing the actual service. Costs of living are continuing to rise, but many of those in service industries have had a stagnated pay grade for years.

We all have complaints. I’ve been passed up at my bus stop a time or two; I’ve also received a less-than-cheery comment from the occasional bus driver. But the majority of my experiences with drivers in Victoria have been positive. Those sardine-can bus rides exist because those drivers try to cram on more students than is comfortable in order to ensure none are left behind.

I’ve been lost more times than I’d like to admit trying to walk home from somewhere in Victoria (which is not my hometown).  Each time, I finally had to seek out a bus stop and ask the driver for directions. In every instance, the driver provided me with instructions.

Bus drivers are people, too. I’m sure on the occasional bad day they lash out at a rider when they really want to lash out at that boss who still hasn’t given them a raise. I bet a few of them are just grumpy for no reason. But honestly, are we going to blame the drivers for the service when it is poor? All they are doing is their job. Generally, I believe they are doing it as best they can. If we really want change in the system, like maybe those text updates that are provided in Vancouver or an extra bus that runs during peak hours, we need to take the issue up the ladder to the people who can actually make those changes. Maybe instead of blaming drivers for issues that are beyond their control, we could get behind them in asking for some change.


ANTI-STRIKE – Alex Davidson

Like many students, I wanted to get far enough away from my parents that they couldn’t crash my parties, but still close enough to eat their food. I chose Victoria for my post-secondary experience.

I always see subtle differences between Victoria and Vancouver whenever I go back home. For one, downtown Vancouver doesn’t look like it’s made of gingerbread. But another startling difference is that a majority of students in Victoria say “thank you” to the bus driver upon each departure at their respective stop, while showing the same gratitude in Vancouver invokes turning heads and death glares.

I only bring this up because of the Victoria transit strike looming overhead, which is threatening to make my weekend trip to Sugar way more difficult than it has to be (not to mention some minor issues, like long-distance commuting for jobs and higher learning). Currently, Victoria transit drivers make a top hourly rate of $26.14 plus benefits, and yet are threatening to strike for, you guessed it, increased wages and benefits.

More than 1 300 people were passed up in a week according to a September poll printed in the Times Colonist. The majority of these were students, predominantly the early morning class-goers who found themselves throwing up their hands in disbelief at yet another single-level bus on their high-congestion route, while double-decker busses were simply nowhere to be found. Yet, B.C. Transit is suggesting that we stagger our classes to fit their disorganization. Do other essential services say, “Sorry, we’re busy; come back another time”?

And with all this disarray, bus drivers have the nerve to ask for higher wages and expect our support. Support from those who thanked them every time we actually got picked up. But don’t worry, they’ve promised to give 24-hour notice when they strike so we can all find ways to school in the middle of the week. Because we’re never busy then. And if you’re thinking, “It’s not the drivers’ fault; they have no control,” remember that of those Canadian Auto Workers Local 333 union members who voted, 98 per cent voted in favour of job action should it become necessary.

Perhaps transit workers do deserve a raise; after all, they haven’t received one since 2009, and the standard of living hasn’t exactly flat-lined. But why concede to them when they aren’t even providing the service they promise? Shouldn’t service problems be fixed before we pay attention to these demands? I say down with the strike and down with “thank you.” This is one student who won’t be behind the picket line.