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TTC union rejects offer, endorses strike action

Ninety-nine per cent vote against contract that offers a 2-per-cent wage increase


Friday, March 11, 2005 Page A10

The Toronto Transit Commission’s union says its members have voted overwhelmingly to reject a contract offer and to endorse a possible strike, warning that buses, streetcars and the subway could soon grind to halt if the TTC brass doesn’t stop “playing games.”

But TTC chairman Howard Moscoe dismissed the union charges as nothing more than “sabre rattling” as contract talks, which began last month, move forward.

The union’s three-year deal expires March 31.

“I can’t imagine there being a strike this year,” Mr. Moscoe said., calling the union’s accusations “poetic licence.”

Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents the TTC’s 8,300 unionized employees, said yesterday that 99 per cent of union members who voted rejected a five-year offer that includes 2-per-cent annual wage hikes.

He accused the TTC of trying to make the union look bad and “scare the public” by presenting an initial offer it knew would fail to win approval.

“It’s shameful and irresponsible conduct,” Mr. Kinnear said. “They must be getting labour relations training at Wal-Mart.”

Mr. Kinnear said the union has other issues as well, including the struggling pension plan, which he said is paying out millions more in benefits than it is taking in.

He said one measure of union members’ anger at management is the turnout for Wednesday night’s contract vote, which saw more than 6,400 members cast ballots.

It was the highest turnout in the local’s history, he said.

Mr. Kinnear warned that if the union executive decided in early April that progress wasn’t being made in contract talks, workers could walk off the job.

Describing the pay hikes in the offer as too low, he pointed to the “substantial” pay increase given to TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme, saying his members would accept a similar raise.

Mr. Ducharme started at $164,997 in 2000, but by 2003, he as making $241,519, according to the annual list of public-sector wages disclosed by the province.

Mr. Moscoe acknowledged that other public-transit systems in Ontario have been signing deals that include 3-per-cent raises.

But he said the TTC’s 2-per-cent offer is “reasonable and fair” as a starting point, adding that with the TTC’s financial crunch, the transit agency can’t afford an increase, but would just have to find the money.

A TTC bus driver with three years on the job makes $24.32 an hour. The last three-year contract gave unionized transit workers 3-per-cent annual raises.

In 1999, Torontonians had to walk, drive or cycle as TTC workers went on a two-day strike.

In 1991, a strike lasted for eight days.