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Transit strike deadline no worry to TTC

Union vows walkout if no offer by Friday

TTC says deal will `absolutely’ be ready


Signs were pointing yesterday to a settlement between the TTC and its 8,400 workers, who have been without a contract since Friday.

While the union set a strike deadline and ramped up its rhetoric, Mayor David Miller and TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said they were hopeful a strike will be averted. Ducharme said his negotiating team would be able to meet the union’s deadline with a new offer.

Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 113, issued an ultimatum that the TTC must have an offer on the table by Friday noon or else workers would go on strike Monday.

“Friday is the deadline,” said Kinnear. “If the TTC fails to come through with an acceptable offer by noon, we will cease negotiations until at least Monday and we will be off the job until we have an offer that is ratified by our members by secret ballot.”

The union’s rhetoric was remarkably sharper from its previous news conference a week ago.

Yesterday, Kinnear accused the TTC negotiators of “dragging their heels” and using a “strategy of delay, defer and ignore.”

They were the toughest words so far in a surprisingly rancour-free round of negotiations.

Kinnear, perhaps playing more to his membership than the TTC’s negotiating team, said setting a deadline would be the fastest way to resolve the contract.

TTC officials were unfazed by the strike threat. Ducharme took in the union’s news conference and was warmly greeted by union members when they passed each other. The union had told Ducharme and Miller what they intended to announce.

After union leaders left the room, Ducharme told reporters the union chief’s statements were “no surprise” and that an offer would “absolutely” be forthcoming well before the deadline.

“We’ll be working more of the details (today) so they can have enough time to make a decision by Friday, to be fair to them,” said Ducharme.

“We’ll continue to negotiate. We’ve made progress. This is an onerous process. We’re a big organization and there are a lot of issues on the table and we’re trying to address them.”

Ducharme said both sides had settled 21 workplace-related issues, including a union agreement on discipline for drivers whose buses and streetcars arrive too early at key stops. But the outstanding issues are wages and pensions.

“Both of those will be discussed in detail tomorrow,” said Ducharme. “It’s the trade-off between what’s the cost of benefits you want, versus the wages. That’s what it’s going to come down to with the final decision on Friday, what’s affordable to the city.”

Miller spoke at length about the “goodwill” at the table but warned that a TTC strike would devastate the city’s economy.

“I think it’s no secret the city is in a difficult financial situation because of the actions of the previous provincial government,” said Miller. “I’m hopeful things will work out between now and Friday.

“All TTC employees … understand the difficult financial position the TTC is in. The negotiations are coming down to the crunch. There’s been goodwill. I’d prefer it to be resolved by noon (today) if that’s possible. Reasonability is not the issue, affordability is the issue.”