Penticton reluctantly on board with transit agreement

Mayor votes against contract to increase wages for mechanics and other transit costs

Penticton council agreed to extending the conventional transit agreement between B.C. Transit and Penticton Transit Services for three years, including increases in mechanics’ wages and other costs, but not without some reluctance.

The new agreement will see mechanics’ wages increased two per cent per year along with a 1.5 per cent per year increase in fixed and variable costs.

“On an annual basis, their contract will increase by $10,817, and over the three-year term, $32,451,” said Mitch Moroziuk, director of operations.

Mayor Dan Ashton said that he personally was in opposition to the increase, noting that other government offices and services, including Penticton, have been fighting to keep costs under control.

“I take a look around at what has transpired, not only here at the city but in other government offices, and I find myself in a position unable to support this,” said Ashton, who was joined by Coun. Vassilaki in his symbolic opposition.

“I too won’t be supporting it on the grounds that our own city staff only received zero, one, one, one and one,” said Vassilaki. “I know this is a considerably better deal than what originally came to us in order to make a decision on. I am thankful for that but I won’t be supporting it.”

Coun. Judy Sentes argued that the increases included in the new agreement might have been unavoidable. It was her understanding, she said, that the increase reflected problems with keeping trained and experienced mechanics. She was joined by Coun. Garry Litke, who noted that Berry and Smith Trucking, who handle the city’s transit operations, have provided good service.

“They have always kept their costs in check. I have every confidence in the fact that they will continue to do so,” said Litke.

“This contract will allow them to continue their service to Penticton. My understanding and the best advice we got is that if we had gone to other carriers and providers it would have been considerably more expensive than this.”

Penticton has expressed concern over how B.C. Transit conducts negotiations. In their presentation to the independent review panel last April, the city expressed concern over budget costs imposed by B.C. Transit.

“An extension to the contract was negotiated between B.C. Transit and the conventional service provider without any input from the city. B.C. Transit simply sent over a letter requesting endorsement of the financial impacts of the negotiated contract extension,” reads the report. “As the annual operating agreement is a three-party agreement between B.C. Transit, the City of Penticton and the conventional service provider, the city should have been consulted long before the negotiation process took place.”

That presentation also noted that costs associated with B.C. Transit have been growing rapidly, rising from $73,395 to $158,062 over the last five years.