Court approves motion to limit picketing in Ontario transit strike

Picketers may block buses for only three minutes, but can still “occupy” buses

An effort to limit picketing in an Ontario transit strike has been approved by the Ontario Superior Court.

Last week, York Region filed for a court injunction against two unions saying the striking transit workers were participating in “unlawful picketing.”The region said the 560 workers were creating unsafe conditions for transit users, motorists and pedestrians.

The Dec. 22 decision sets out a protocol that specifies 15 terminals and garages where buses can be delayed for just three minutes.

The region had also hoped to stop strikers from “occupying” buses, which was limiting space for transit users. The ruling, however, permits protesters to continue to board buses.

“The region threw everything but the kitchen sink into their request for restrictions in order to make it look like the union was acting illegally,” said Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 president Bob Kinear. “Some degree of public inconvenience is inevitable in a transit strike but the union has been very restrained and reasonable.”

Progress has been made in some negotiations. ATU Local 113, whose 220 members operate the region’s Viva buses, will be voting Dec. 23 on an offer made by management company Veolia.

Bargaining resumed on Dec. 21 between management and ATU Local 1587, whose 340 drivers operate York Region Transit buses for Miller Transit and First Canada. However, no progress was made, according to the union.

The main issues at the centre of the dispute — now in its ninth week — are wages and benefits, including how much employees should pay for their own health-care package.

The strike affects bus routes operated by companies contracted to supply service to Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. A number of routes are also affected in northern York Region.

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