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Making TTC essential would be costly

Union says it’s better the TTC keep collective bargaining rights

by Don Peat

Taking away TTC workers’ right to strike will cost everyone, transit union boss Bob Kinnear warned Tuesday.

Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, said if Mayor Rob Ford goes ahead with his push to make the TTC an essential service he should be prepared to pay TTC employees as much as cops and firefighters, the city’s other essential services.

“Rob Ford is playing politics here,” Kinnear told the Sun Tuesday.

In what is expected to be one of the tighter votes at city council on Thursday, councillors will debate asking the province to deem the TTC an essential service.

Toronto Police and Toronto Fire are already deemed essential services and Kinnear said if the TTC was designated an essential service, pay for his members should match.

“That would be our argument, why not?” Kinnear said. “If they are saying that we’ve reached the threshold that the police and fire department have, absolutely…if we don’t have the right to free, collective bargaining and we’ve been deemed an essential service we would argue that we should be paid reflective of what the other essential services within the city are.”

Kinnear said an essential service designation would be a “detrimental move to both sides.”

For the union, it would mean the loss of resolving specific issues through collective bargaining and sky-high legal fees.

“There’s been this perception that has been created that we’re constantly on strike,” he said.

“I know that stems from 2008 and some of the circumstances surrounding that strike, but the fact is that in the last 30 years we’ve had 13 days,” Kinnear said. “We wish that Mayor Ford would begin to address the real issues and that’s the lack of service out there, the overcrowding and the deterioration of our equipment because of its age.”

TTC chairman Karen Stintz says an essential service designation will be a good thing.

“If you ask the travelling public, they would say it is,” she said.

Stintz countered most TTC work stoppages end almost as soon as they start with the province ordering them back to work.

“We effectively have essential service,” she said. “We should call it what it is.”

As for concerns the status would mean the end of collective bargaining between the TTC and the union, Stintz pointed out the city bargained two agreements with the city’s firefighters.

While one vote kept council from asking the TTC be declared essential in 2008, Stintz said she’s confident the majority of councillors now support the move and it will pass by more than one vote.

TTC officials said their 2008 recommendation against deeming the TTC an essential service remains unchanged.

WheelTrans is already guaranteed to keep running in the event of a work stoppage.

During the summer, the union and the TTC worked out an agreement that WheelTrans service would continue if workers hit the bricks or get locked out.

“Because…in no way do we want to risk or jeopardize anybody’s health,” Kinnear said.