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Workers get a wheely good deal

Royal York employees benefit from TTC discount plan

Transit service hopes program will take off with business


When employees at the Fairmont Royal York were negotiating their current collective agreement, they came up with an idea that will benefit other workers and residents as well.

The discounted bulk-purchase TTC Metropass included in their contract will soon roll out for other large employers, Toronto’s universities and even condo owners.

The downtown hotel is the first organization to sign up for the Volume Incentive Pass (VIP) Green Program as a pilot participant. The idea for a bulk-purchase discount began with the hotel workers, said Howard Moscoe, who chairs the Toronto Transit Commission.

“They came to the TTC and said: `Are you prepared to consider a bulk price if we negotiate this in our agreement?’ They were successful,” he said.

“It will kick off dozens of employee programs. We’re now negotiating with seven other groups for this. And this will be the genesis of our university student discount program, which we’re discussing with Ryerson and U of T and York.”

Royal York workers were at the TTC commissioners meeting yesterday accepting their Metropasses, for which they’ll pay $81.50 per month instead of the regular price of $98.75. The VIP discount is deeper than that available to passengers who buy a year’s worth of Metropasses. In that deal, pre-authorized payments of $90.50 are made monthly.

“Hotel and restaurant employees are on the lower end of the wage scale as far as skilled workers,” said Tord Henry, a cook at the ritzy hotel and shop steward with the Hotel Employees, Restaurant Employees International Union, which negotiated the deal with hotel management and the TTC.

“It really comes as a great help to a lot of our members. A lot of them are single mothers.”

At the time the deal was reached last summer, the hotel employed about 800 workers.

The plan works like this: The Royal York buys in bulk from the TTC, getting a 10 per cent discount on 93 monthly passes, bringing the price down to $88.75. The hotel then contributes a maximum of $7.25 per employee (2.25 cents per hour worked) into a fund to lower the cost even more.

“It fits in with our culture,” said Andrew Cook, the hotel’s director of human resources. “We’ve very committed to environmental programs as well as a management philosophy of employee relations and employee satisfaction.”

“We’re hoping … we’ll be able to make the city a better, cleaner place with less cars on the road,” Henry said.

The TTC is hoping to sign up 10 to 12 participants in the VIP pilot project, which ends Aug. 31, 2004. Companies or groups must commit to a 12-month term of purchase and a minimum buy of 50 passes per month to qualify for the variable 10 to 12 per cent discount.

During yesterday’s meeting, commissioners were urged to take the program even further when condominium planner John Bousfield asked what sort of discount a developer could expect if it bought 1,000 year-long passes for residents when a development near Bayview and Sheppard Aves. is complete.

Bousfield’s question was referred to staff, but the commissioners were beside themselves with glee at the thought of a developer buying into public transit in a deal that could be worth about $800,000.

“I think if a developer is prepared to go buy a yearly pass, that’s a major step forward,” Moscoe said. “If this idea catches on, the TTC will come out a winner.”