Update: It was announced this morning (Tuesday Dec. 10) that a last-minute deal has been reached to avert the Vancouver SkyTrain strike.
The City of Vancouver — home to top schools including the University of British Columbia — is expecting a traffic spike next week with finals approaching and thousands of attendees pouring into the Convention Center from December 8 to 14 for top-tier AI conference NeurIPS 2019.
But wait a minute. The union representing Vancouver’s SkyTrain workers today announced that barring a last-minute deal, a 72-hour system shutdown will begin at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, December 10 and continue through 5 a.m. Friday.
The move comes after five days of mediated talks with the BC Rapid Transit Company (SkyTrain) produced no significant progress made on key issues. The last SkyTrain strike was a single day shutdown more than twenty years ago.
The strike would affect the SkyTrain Expo Line, which runs through the Pacific Central train station, and Millennium Line. The Canada Line, which connects Vancouver International Airport and the convention center, and the West Coast Express would not be affected.
The SkyTrain launched in 1986 and is now the world’s longest autonomous train system. But as TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drews explained to the Vancouver Sun: “While trains do not require drivers, staff are required in the control room to run the system. Field staff are also necessary in the event there is a malfunction like a timed-out train.”
Two weeks ago, members of CUPE 7000, which represents approximately 900 SkyTrain workers who provide service as attendants and control operators, as well as administration, maintenance, and technical staff, voted 96.8 per cent in favor of job action after months-long talks broke down.
“We understand that this is a massive action that will cause a great deal of inconvenience to our passengers, which is why we hope we can still reach an agreement before Tuesday morning,” said CUPE 7000 President Tony Rebelo in a statement.
Services like Uber and Lyft are not yet available in Vancouver, so local taxi drivers will likely be stretched thin. In a city normally known for its convenient transit, NeurIPS attendees may have a tough time getting around.
Journalist: Yuan Yuan | Editor: Michael Sarazen