09/13/2012 02:17 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

Victoria Transit Workers Vote For Strike Mandate

BC Transit
VICTORIA - Bus drivers and other transit workers in Victoria have armed their union with a strike mandate as the two sides prepare to re-open stalled contract talks on Friday.

Canadian Auto Workers union Local 333 says employees who cast ballots voted 98 per cent in favour of job action should it become necessary.

The strike vote was held after bargaining with BC Transit broke down last week.

Local president Ben Williams says the last thing he wants is to "take any form of job action that might disrupt transit service" and says the strike vote is not a 72-hour strike notice.

But he adds that the workers overwhelmingly rejected the last offer from BC Transit and directed the CAW to return to bargaining with a "strong message for management."

Williams says BC Transit proposed an increase of one per cent over three years — less than the 3.5 per cent over two years the province offered BC Government and Service Employees Union members.

He says his members, who have been without a contract since the end of March, are unwilling to accept less than BCGEU members already rejected.

"We will negotiate as long as it takes, we will do everything we can to reach an agreement but there has to be movement on the part of BC Transit," Williams said.

Williams says more bargaining is scheduled this month and in October.

He adds that handyDART drivers are under a separate agreement and were not part of the strike vote.

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