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Toronto transit workers set Monday for walkout

Friday, April 8, 2005 Updated at 3:32 PM EST
Globe and Mail Update

The union representing workers for the Toronto Transit Commission Friday say they have readied their 8,000 plus members to go on strike Monday morning, meaning more than one million commuters could be stranded next week.

They said they will give Transit Commission the weekend to consider their latest offer.”

“It is…with the deepest regret that I have to announce that we will be withdrawing our services as of Monday morning,” Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, told a press conference in Toronto Friday.

“We will give the [Toronto Transit] Commission the weekend to think about the consequences of their inadequate offer.

“That is the unanimous decision of our executive,” Mr. Kinnear said.

Mr. Kinnear said TTC employees are tired of “taking the flak” for continued cuts to services by government.

“We are tired of being blamed for having to collect higher and higher fares from our passengers—most of whom are working people like us,” Mr. Kinnear told reporters.

“We don’t want to hinder the public. That’s the last thing we want. But unfortunately the TTC has forced us into that position,” he said.

About 1.4 million commuters use the system each day.

The union and the commission are far apart on issues such as the contracting out of maintenance workers, Mr. Kinnear said.

After Mr. Kinnear spoke, TTC chairman Howard Moscoe released a copy of the TTC’s final offer to reporters, which said the union was offered 2.75 per cent wage increase this year, a 3 per cent wage increase next year, and a 3.25 per cent increase in 2007.

A hike in 2008 would be negotiated in the next contract. The offer also included increased benefits and pension contributions. Mr. Moscoe said it was worth $160-million in total.

He said he didn’t understand the union’s refusal to accept the offer and said he was disappointed.

“It has been a very long week. [I am] deeply, deeply, disappointed. We have the best offering we can possibly move under the circumstances,” Mr. Moscoe said.

The union-imposed deadline for the Toronto Transit Commission to come up with an “acceptable” offer and avoid a transit strike passed at noon Friday, but TTC officials remained hopeful a deal could be reached.

Mr. Kinnear had warned earlier this week that without an adequate offer he would walk away from the talks at that time and order his 8,400 TTC workers to hit the picket lines Monday morning.

The union had been in a legal strike position since April 1. Earlier this week. The union, consisting of more than 8,000 bus, subway and streetcar workers, voted 99 per cent against a five-year offer on March 9.

The deal included a two per cent wage increase in each of the next three years. The union said it wanted pension contributions to be increased and leniency in scheduling.

The transit system last went on strike in 1999, jamming the city’s highways and roads for two days.

Toronto Mayor David Miller was scheduled to speak about the issue later Friday.

With a report from Canadian Press