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Monday, May 21, 2007

Greyhound union apologizes for strike

Basking in the afternoon sun outside Vancouver's bus station Friday, Madeline Chapman said she felt "really sorry" for people showing up on the eve of a holiday weekend only to find that a strike had grounded Greyhound service. Walking a picket line just meters down the same sidewalk, driver Glen Goegen said he hoped the traveling public knew workers were "very sorry" to have inconvenienced them.

In Calgary, at Greyhound head office, senior vice-president Brad Shephard issued a statement saying he too "sincerely apologize[d] for the inconvenience it is creating for our customers."

About 1,150 Greyhound drivers and mechanics, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1374, walked out across Western Canada early Friday morning after talks with the company broke off.

Workers are seeking higher wages and better working conditions, union officials said. On May 14, they rejected the company offer of two per cent in each year of a two-year contract.

Chapman, a Coquitlam resident, was about to board a Pacific Coach Lines bus to visit her sister in Sooke. She was waiting on the sidewalk because PCL drivers, members of the Canadian Auto Workers, were honouring the Greyhound picket lines by parking outside the terminal grounds.

Goegen, a picket captain, said most people arriving in search of a Greyhound ticket were "polite enough" to the strikers.

"I'm sorry it has to happen this way, but it has to happen. We get paid less than transit drivers and less than PCL," Goegen said. "We make $40,000 to $60,000 a year, which is for about 60 hours a week, and we are responsible for a busload of people and for cargo and the trailers we haul. We'd like a wage that reflects our responsibilities."

The strike against Canada's largest inter-city bus operator has halted passenger and package service in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

Vancouver Island service continues via Greyhound's Island Coach Line. Buses to the U.S. are also still running.

"Throughout the negotiations process, the company has made every effort to address the needs of its represented employees," said a statement from Greyhound's Shephard.

"This current situation is unfortunate, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience it is creating for our customers. However, we remain committed to doing everything we can to alleviate the disruption, and will resume normal operations and ticket sales as soon as possible."

Greyhound suspended passenger and parcel service midnight Thursday.

Passengers scheduled to travel through or within the affected area may hold their tickets for future travel or turn them in for a full refund.

(canada.com)