Transit union under pressure across central Ontario

Showdown at Toronto Transit Commission seems inevitable

Three Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) locals in and around Toronto find themselves in very different situations this weekend: one has ratified, one may go on strike and one may be seeing its right to strike evaporate.

In Guelph, 183 employees of Guelph Transit ratified an agreement by 60 per cent on January 30 and the city followed on February 7. The contract runs for three years from July 1, 2010 and provides 1.25 per cent in January and 1.5 per cent in July of 2011 and 2012, and a final 1.25 per cent in January of 2013. Modest improvements to benefits are also made.

In York Region, 150 drivers have a Monday strike deadline against Veolia Transportation Services, which operates the local portion of the VIVA transit system. The union’s demands include wages, which they claim are up to 30 per cent less than in neighbouring regional transit systems, and sick days.

And, on February 10, the Toronto Transit Commission rejected the ATU’s no-strike offer for negotiations to renew a collective agreement expiring on March 31. Instead, the TTC is demanding that the union voluntarily give up its right to strike permanently.

A bill to declare the TTC an essential service could be introduced in the Legislature as soon as February 22. The ATU’s stated purpose in making the no-strike offer is to allow full debate on the bill, something they argue could not happen if it was forced through before the contract expiry.

ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear reacted to the move angrily, calling it “intentionally provocative.” “The City’s position is unreasonable in the extreme and they know it.”

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