Region claims negotiations could resume in Ontario transit strike

Unions have not heard from contractors, but are willing to talk

A notice on York Region’s Facebook page says management involved in the region’s six-week-long transit strike will return to the bargaining table. Last week, the region indicated it would not intervene with the matter.

"The Regional Municipality of York has been advised that contracted operators Veolia Transportation, Miller Transit and First Canada are prepared to meet with (Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)) Local 1587 and Local 113 regarding the resumption of negotiations in the ongoing (York Region Transit)/VIVA strike," the posting reads. “Contracted operators have, or are in the process of, reaching out to union representatives.”

The president of ATU Local 113 — which represents workers who run the region’s VIVA buses — says he hasn’t heard from anyone.

“We have not been contacted by the contractors yet, but we will return to the bargaining table if invited and make every attempt to reach a fair and reasonable settlement,” says Local 113 president Bob Kinnear.

The contractors told the union in November they wouldn’t revise their final offers, according to Kinnear. The ATU suggested binding arbitration at which point the unions would call off the strike. However, contractors and York Region chair and CEO Bill Fisch didn’t take them up on their offer.

"If we go back to work without a settlement, there will be no incentive for the employers to make a fair and reasonable offer,” Kinnear said. “They had their chance back in October and they blew it. Maybe this time they'll make a serious offer. We certainly hope so."

In a new tactic to the strike, workers began “occupying” buses not affected by the strike at a main terminal on Dec. 7, limiting space for paying customers. The union is hoping the demonstration will help raise awareness of the issues surrounding the strike across York Region.

About 220 employees represented by ATU 113 are affected by the walkout, along with 340 drivers from ATU Local 1587, who operate YRT buses for Miller Transit and First Canada. The YRT 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. Wages, benefits and shift length are the main stumbling blocks in negotiations.

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