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Union rejects TTC's latest contract offer

DAVID NICKLE
Mar. 18, 2005

Unionized workers for the Toronto Transit Commission have overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from the commission, starting a countdown to a transit strike as early as April 1.

But both union and TTC officials say that the vote - in which 99 per cent turned out to reject the commission’s proffered contract - doesn’t mean a strike is inevitable.

“At the end of the day, we’re not interested in withdrawing services,” said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Local 113. “We recognize that people we transport to and from work have no alternative, we recognize the need to provide food for their families. We want a negotiated settlement and we will only withdraw our services as a last resort - as long as things progress, we will continue to talk.”

Kinnear will be going into those talks with an impressive mandate to strike, however. The 99 per cent rejection of the offer came from a vote of 6,422 members out of a total membership of 8,300.

TWO PER CENT INCREASE

The contract that TTC officials put forward, according to a news release from the union, was a five-year contract with wage increases of two per cent each year. Kinnear wouldn’t say how much workers are asking for, but a news release from the union points out that current labour settlements in Ontario public transit amount to three per cent a year.

And he said the five-year contract proposal is unprecedented. Currently, transit workers are finishing a three-year collective agreement - one that saw annual wage increases of three per cent.

NEGOTIATIONS

Kinnear said that TTC negotiators are attempting to manoeuvre the union into a position where it appears to be unreasonable by rejecting the contract offer.

“I honestly believe that they recognized that this offer was not going to be accepted, and they were trying to put our members in a negative position, suggesting we want to withdraw our services and create a public crisis.”

However, TTC chair Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) was calm in the face of the vote, calling it an “overreaction” to the commission’s offer and a normal part of the bargaining process.

“It’s part of a periodic minuet that we go through,” he said. “Everybody rattles their sabers on the way to get a settlement. The truth of the matter is that this year the TTC decided to shorten the game, so instead of making a 0.2 per cent offer the TTC made a two per cent offer and the union overreacted.”

Moscoe, who has not been involved in negotiations, said he was confident there would be a settlement prior to the deadline.

“All my instincts and experience tell me we’re going to have a settlement,” he said.




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