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TTC has a 'million' reasons to reach a deal, workers say

20080311-torstar.jpg

RICK EGLINTON/TORONTO STAR
Toronto Transit Commission workers fill city council chambers March 10 to hear Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union.

IF THERE WAS NO TTC, IT WOULD COST THE CITY …

$6.2 billion
in lost economic benefits, including employment

$23 million
in environmental and energy costs

$309 million
in additional medical expenses

$3.5 billion
in additional travel time costs

$1.5 billion
in new vehicle operating and ownership costs

$195 million
in long-term highway and parking construction

$11.7 billion
total, annually

Source: Report by Marilyn Churley, published by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113

Mar 11, 2008 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

With the possibility of a strike looming this spring, TTC workers have launched a public relations campaign touting themselves as “Worth a Million” in social, economic and environmental value to the city.

Their union is recommending workers reject a first contract offer in a vote tomorrow. If the two sides fail to reach a deal by the end of the month, when the current agreement expires, a strike is possible.

Meanwhile, three TV ads are asking riders to consider what Toronto would be like without public transit. The ad campaign is based on a report that puts the TTC’s value at nearly $12 billion annually - or about $1 million for each of the system’s 10,000 employees.

“It emphasizes the importance of our members’ work to the city of Toronto. Hopefully, the politicians, the commissioners, the powers that be, will recognize we are not a cost to the city, but a benefit to the city,” said Bob Kinnear, president of the 8,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

The union would continue to negotiate beyond March 31 if negotiations were progressing, he said.

“We don’t want a strike. We, more than anybody, recognize the importance of our service to the city. It’s very important to point out it’s our members that have to face the public when there is a disruption in the city with services,” he said.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone said it’s technically possible there could be a strike April 1, but stressed that it’s still early. It’s not unexpected that the union would deliver a strike mandate. “We’re not going to get into bargaining through the public,” he said.

The TTC offer, tabled last Wednesday, offers a 2 per cent pay increase in each year of a four-year agreement and significant concessions to some benefits, said Kinnear at a city hall news conference attended by more than 100 transit workers yesterday.

The union is also trying to secure better compensation for sickness and injuries, and safety provisions.

“We have transit operators that are beaten, punched, spat upon - sometimes injured so they cannot continue to work and perform their duties - and they’re penalized financially and that is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Unlike city workers, TTC employees lose wages if they need to take time off after an assault or accident.

A recent Star investigation found that transit workers in Toronto suffer higher rates of post-traumatic stress than police officers.

“This campaign is saving me from future assaults,” streetcar operator Paddi Erbin told Kinnear.

“I just want to come to work and not be attacked.”

Erbin has been off work since November after the third major assault in her 10-year TTC career. A youth jumped her from behind while she was in the driver’s seat.

The $12 billion annual value of transit is “conservative,” says the author of the union report, former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley.




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