Union supports sending dispute to arbitration, criticizes essential service designation
Striking York Region Transit (YRT) workers could soon be off the picket line if a private member’s bill introduced in Ontario’s legislature is passed.
The York Region Transit Labour Disputes Resolution Act, 2011 was introduced on Nov. 23 by Progressive Conservative MPPs Frank Klees, Peter Shurman and Julia Munro and would send the five-week-long dispute to binding arbitration for a settlement.
“It would be irresponsible of us not to take this step to get transit back into service,” Klees said in a release. “Seniors can’t get to medical appointments, students are missing classes and jobs are being lost. No level of government should be washing their hands of this issue.”
If passed, the bill will also declare the transit system an essential service, preventing further strikes and sending future contract disputes to arbitration if agreements cannot be reached through negotiation.
The Ontario LIberal government has indicated they are not considering legislation to send the workers back to work.
“We are not considering or discussing back-to-work legislation in regards to the York Region Transit dispute,” Labour Minister Linda Jeffrey said. “The best agreements are those reached between parties and behind closed doors.”
President of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, Bob Kinnear, says he supports sending the dispute to arbitration because a negotiated settlement is unlikely to be reached. He criticized the essential service portion of the bill, however, saying it will slow down the passing of the bill and that the Tory MPPs are playing political games to remove bargaining rights.
About 220 employees represented by ATU 113 are affected by the walkout, along with 340 drivers represented by ATU Local 1587. 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.