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GO strike may hit buses within days

30,000 riders face making other plans if drivers walk out

Dec 20, 2007 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

GO buses are expected to run as usual today.

But the possibility of a strike over the holiday season or early in the new year looms large after talks broke off yesterday between GO Transit and its 1,200 unionized bus drivers, ticket agents and office workers.

The two sides had returned to the bargaining table after 69 per cent of the workers rejected a tentative contract settlement announced earlier this month.

Union president Denis Tanham said he didn’t know at this point what the workers’ next move would be, but job action will be on the table when the executive of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1587 next meets, likely today or tomorrow.

“The company said they’re not prepared to talk any more, so there’s a possibility of a strike,” he said.

GO drivers make about $25.46 an hour, or about $1 less than TTC drivers. Some GO workers “believe they deserve more,” said Tanham. “We’ll still be behind some of the other transit unions in the city of Toronto.”

A strike is unprecedented in the 28 years the union has represented GO workers, who have been without a contract since June 1.

“I guess it’s new for everybody,” he said.

GO officials refused to comment. A company statement said it had made a “generous” offer and “cannot offer any more.”

It has asked the union for 48 hours’ notice of any labour disruption so travellers can make other arrangements.

“Job actions are a real possibility,” GO chairman Peter Smith said in the statement.

In the event of a strike, GO trains would continue to run as usual. But train riders have been warned to buy their monthly passes early to avoid long lines.

Bus riders are being asked to take the train if they can or to carpool.

Although those using GO’s fastest growing bus service, the 407 Express routes, wouldn’t be able to take the train instead, riders waiting for buses at Union Station yesterday weren’t concerned about the possibility of a service disruption.

Many were students and Christmas shoppers, and said they’d use other regional transit services to connect with the GO train or TTC.

“It would take longer - much longer,” admitted Ryerson University business student Anu Rathod.

Among GO’s 165,000 daily riders, 30,000 use the fleet of 1,800 buses.

No new talks are scheduled.