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A Brief History of Metro Vancouver’s Crazy 123-Day Transit Strike In 2001

Vancouver strike in 2001 longest running strike

Photo: Owen L. / Flickr

Vancouver narrowly avoided both a full bus service shutdown and full SkyTrain service shutdown, both of which were the result of job action in the form of a transit workers’ strike.

It’s hard to imagine what a shutdown like that would’ve looked like.

Or maybe not, because almost two decades ago, Vancouver went through it’s longest-ever strike, which lasted 123 days.

People had to carpool, walk, cycle or even hitch rides over the four months, before the province passed legislation to get bus services rolling again.

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The Expo Line was running, but the Millennium line was still under construction until 2002.

In April of 2001, 2,500 transit workers in Vancouver went on strike and wouldn’t return until a new deal was met. The union wanted an 18% wage increase over three years, to $23.36/hour.

In July, people gathered outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, demanding an end to the strike.

A load of manure was also dumped on the lawn of George Puil, a city councillor who was also the chair of TransLink.

Finally in early August, labour minister Graham Bruce announced legislation that forced workers back on the job. The settlement for wage increases landed at 8.5% over three years, plus a $1,000 signing bonus.

TransLink had just taken over public transit in 1999, two years prior to the strike.

Transit workers also walked off the job in 1984 for three months, before they were forced back to work.

Use of transit services has increased considerably since the 2001 strike, going from 230 million trips a year to 436 million in 2018.

But be weary: while SkyTrain and bus services avoided a shutdown last-minute, the Canada Line union contract is also set to expire this month. We’re not out of the woods quite yet.

For more Vancouver history, check out our History section.


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