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‘Another foreign company’ looks to take over Kelowna regional transit: Union

French firm to buy First Transit from Swedish investment group
A bus stopped at the Queensway Transit Exchange in downtown Kelowna. (Capital News file photo)

The pending sale of First Transit, the company that operates the Kelowna Regional Transit System, to a French-based firm is concerning to the union representing workers in the Central Okanagan.

Transdev Group has signed an agreement to acquire First Transit’s Canadian and U.S. operations. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1722 President, Al Peressini has been briefed on the sale by the union’s international president.

“It is a little bit concerning, said Peresinni. “This is the fifth management company that’s been in Kelowna. This Transdev is out of France, another foreign company, so all the profits will be going to France now.”

First Transit is currently owned by Swedish global investment firm EQT. Transdev operates in 18 countries, including Canada, running transit systems in Quebec and Ontario. Peressini said he doesn’t expect the sale will affect a plan to prevent the renewal of First Transit’s contract, which expires in March 2023. That issue came to light on Oct. 5 at a news conference during a one-day transit strike, and was brought up by outgoing mayor Colin Basran.

“As a result of conversations we’ve had with BC Transit, that will not be happening,” said Basran at the time. “We have started conversations with the transport minister on what a new service delivery model may look like for our community.”

Peressini added those plans are still in play.

“I haven’t been able to find out if that extension has been given or not. I’ve asked some questions and I’m getting different answers.”

He said he’s hopeful BC Transit will agree to make the Kelowna regional system public again, and the union will be looking to city council for support.

“There’s a lot of transit-friendly councillors and they were all for it, so we’ll be calling them,” said Peressini.

The union has been involved in a labour dispute with First Transit which culminated in a one-day strike on Oct. 5. The two sides have agreed to let Vancouver-based arbitrator Ken Saunders settle their dispute. Peressini said the sale does not affect the mediation.

“December 15 and 16, we have set some firm dates with Mr. Saunders.”

The sale of First Transit to Transdev will take 60 to 90 days to go through the regulatory process before it can be approved.

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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