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TTC workers give Friday deadline

But acceptable offer must be made by noon on Friday or transit system will be shut down, union says

CURTIS RUSH AND KEVIN MCGRAN
STAFF REPORTERS

A transit strike will begin Monday if no deal is reached by noon on Friday.

That was the deadline announced this morning by Bob Kinnear, spokesperson for the Almagamated Transit Union Local 113, who said an interruption is “not what we want.”

He said there are 49 hours left to reach a deal that is acceptable to the union.

However, he said the contract talks have been “dragging” for too long.

“We have done everything we could. We have reached a point where we needed to set a deadline,” Kinnear said at a news conference. “Hopefully, we will solve our differences by Friday at noon. If we don’t have an offer we can bring back to our membership, we will be off the job come the first shift Monday morning.”

There is a lot of talk of frustration for the travelling public, “but our members feel the same frustration,” Kinnear said.

“Friday noon is the deadline. We will not be accepting any offers Saturday or Sunday. That’s the deadline to receive an acceptable offer.”

The first shift Monday would be about 4 a.m., Kinnear said.

He said a slowdown would not be the route to go.

Rick Ducharme, TTC general manager, told reporters he would “have to sell this (contract proposal) to the city.”

“They were good enough to extend the contract. Nobody has walked. We both have our jobs to do. There is still a lot of time to resolve this. Nobody wants a strike. The biggest issue is how does this affect the economy.”

He didn’t want to talk about details of the contract.

Key issues are wages, pensions and workplace conditions. The union, which has been without a contract since Friday, extended the strike deadline last week.

There are 1.35 million people who ride the TTC every day.

The city announced measures yesterday that will be put in place in case of a strike in an effort to keep traffic moving. They include strict no-parking conditions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on major roads across the city.

In addition, reserved bus lanes on Eglinton Ave., Bay St., Fleet St., King St. and Pape Ave. will be temporarily designated as carpool lanes for the duration of the transit disruption.

Parking lots at 14 community centres will be available free of charge primarily for carpooling.

Some employers are also trying to help their employees get to work in the event of a walkout. At Procter & Gamble’s national headquarters near the Sheppard subway station, workers who can work from home are being encouraged to do so, while those who are willing to carpool are sharing addresses.

“We have informed employees to ensure they have backup plans to get to work,” said Procter & Gamble spokesman Win Sakdinan. “Carpool, or where possible, work from home. We don’t know how long the strike will last, but those are our current plans.”

About 50,000 students at York University, heading into exams, are also getting carpool information because 1,000 bus trips a day may end. “There are plans under way for ride matching,” said York professor Ted Spence.

Cycling may be more of an option for some. The city features 95 kilometres of bike lanes on roads and 154 kilometres of off-road bike paths. A TTC strike would reverberate throughout the region. Parking lots will be jammed, especially at GO Transit’s free suburban lots.

GO Transit, York Region Transit and Mississauga Transit have contingency plans, very few of which will help stranded TTC patrons. GO, York and Mississauga are diverting buses away from subway stations and into GO stations. At GO Transit, “We are reminding our customers to get to stations early, buy tickets in advance, give themselves extra time,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Sorensen.

GO will also reroute buses but is waiting to see where the greatest demand lies before it commits to a schedule.

“It’s very hard to predict things when situations like this happen,” said Sorensen.

York Region Transit may be the hardest hit. It contracts the TTC to operate 15 routes, accounting for about 25 per cent of the region’s daily ridership. But those buses won’t be available in a strike, so the region will redeploy buses from other routes to those routes.

“The effect is going to be huge,” said Don Gordon, general manager of York Region Transit. “We aren’t going to be able to replace what the TTC is doing.”

For York Region Transit users:

Express buses into Finch subway station operating from Markham and Unionville will be cancelled so the buses can be redeployed to carry passengers to local GO stations.

Route 1 (along Highway 7), Route 91 (along Bayview Ave), and Route 99 (along Yonge St.) will all now head to Langstaff GO station, although some will continue on into Finch station.

Route 92 (from Markham) won’t head in to Don Mills station, instead turning around at Seneca College.

For Mississauga Transit users:

Islington subway station will be inaccessible, so Mississauga Transit will drop off passengers on either Islington Ave. or the north side of Bloor St.

The Long Branch loop will not be accessible, so Mississauga Transit’s routes 5A and 5B will pick up and drop off at Lakeshore Rd. and Ogden Ave. Service on Lakeshore Rd. east of Ogden Ave. will continue to be provided by Route 23.

Both transit authorities can venture into Toronto but only to take people from their regions into and out of the city. They’re not allowed to pick up and drop off passengers within Toronto.

Eric Miller, a professor of civil engineering and director of the university’s joint program in transportation, said people may end up appreciating the TTC more if workers strike.

“Whether you use the system or not, people don’t appreciate how critical it is to the functioning of the entire city, and really the entire region.”

“If you’re a driver, you’ll realize a million people not on the roadway are doing you a real favour by not being there.”




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