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City to TTC riders: 'Keep your fingers crossed'

Negotiators work late into the night

Hitchhiking

among options if no deal

KEVIN MCGRAN
TRANSPORTATION REPORTER

The atmosphere inside the Richmond Hill hotel where TTC workers and the city continue last-minute contract negotiations is one of hope after union officials tabled a new counter offer to municipal officials last night.

When asked what message he would like to send to anxious commuters this morning, TTC chairman Howard Moscoe said, “Keep your fingers crossed.”

Details of the offers are not known, but the arrival of Moscoe at the hotel where the talks are taking place gives hope that a deal is imminent. It will be up to Moscoe to sign off on any settlement.

�We are meeting this morning to respond to their latest offer,� said Moscoe. �Hopefully we are going to bargain this through to a successful conclusion. What message can you give TTC riders? Keep your fingers crossed.�

The two sides have been meeting at the Sheraton Parkway in Richmond Hill.

This morning, members of both sides were scurrying between rooms. The photocopying machine was humming, but there was a hopeful mood. The union has said it will strike on Monday beginning at 4 a.m. if no agreement is reached by noon today.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 has called a news conference for 2:30 p.m. to update the public.

The union, which has been without a contract for a week, said it won’t negotiate over the weekend.

Many of the workplace issues have been resolved, leaving the prickly issues of wages and benefits. In March, the union rejected the TTC’s offer of a 2 per cent wage hike in the first three years of a five-year deal. The union is also looking for the TTC to pay more into workers’ pensions to make up for concessions and losses in previous contracts.

Yesterday, TTC chairman Moscoe said the union has still not told the TTC how much it wants in wage hikes.

“The union has to make a counter-offer,” said Moscoe. “We offered 2 per cent, they turned it down (in March). Now the protocol is they have to tell us what they want and they haven’t made a counter-offer yet.

“I can be there in a half an hour, I can make a response, but I have to have something I can respond to. … I’ve got my guidelines from the commission. I know how far I can go and where I can go, but the ball’s in the court of the union.”

As the hours whittle down to the deadline, contract talks between the TTC and its union become like a game of chicken — with the transit system’s 1.3 million daily commuters to pay the price if neither side flinches.

At Queen’s Park, Dalton McGuinty said during question period yesterday his government would not immediately order TTC workers back to work.

“I think we owe it to the parties to allow them to continue to negotiate,” said McGuinty. “I can say that we are ready, willing and able to offer whatever assistance the TTC folks might require, if there’s any way that we can act to help to broker a solution that serves the interest of all the parties and of course, most importantly, the public. But I think we owe it to the parties involved to give them time to work things out.”

TTC patrons will have to get to school or work through some other means on Monday if no deal is reached by today.

Commuters are certain to flock to GO Transit. But even without a strike, the trains and parking lots are usually full during morning rush hours. So GO Transit has taken the unusual step of writing to mayors across Greater Toronto, asking them to go easy on parking infractions near GO stations.

“People are going to come to one of our stations who don’t normally come to that station,” said GO managing director Gary McNeil. “They won’t find any parking. They’ll park on the local streets. The residents will complain. The bylaw officers will come out and put tickets on the cars. But if this strike is only going to last a couple of days, we’re asking to please be tolerant. People have to recognize the fact that these are extraordinary circumstances.”

McNeil knows his trains will be packed. “If they can park the cars and get to the station, then they will tolerate squeezing on to the trains. We will have very crowded trains.”

Parking violations won’t be tolerated in the City of Toronto, at least on the major roadways. Eglinton Ave., Lawrence Ave., Front St. and similar roads will have strictly enforced “no parking” restrictions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to keep traffic flowing and roads clear for emergencies.

In the event of a strike, commuters are urged to call York Region Transit, Mississauga Transit and GO Transit for updates about new routes for buses that normally connect to subway stations. Most will be heading to the nearest GO station. Some commuters will still be dropped off and picked up in Toronto in places like Seneca College and York University and on streets close to subway stations.

Carpooling is one option; try http://www.carpool.ca to find other riders in your area.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says that in most cases, carpooling and temporary use of vehicles during a transit strike won’t require extra insurance coverage. “People who have purchased insurance coverage for a vehicle they don’t usually take to work will neither require extra coverage nor risk losing coverage if they use that vehicle to get to work during the strike,” said IBC vice-president Mark Yakabuski.

But he said people or companies that use a vehicle for profit-making purposes, or who plan on making multiple trips, should contact their agent or broker for specific advice.

With Files From Robert Benzie




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