Transit Toronto is sponsored by TransSee.ca bus tracker and next vehicle arrivals. TransSee features include vehicle tracking by route or fleet number, schedule adherence, off route vehicles and more advanced features. Works on all mobile devices and on any browser.
Supports Toronto area agencies TTC, GO trains, MiWay, YRT, HSR and GRT, as well as NY MTA, LA metro, SF MUNI, Boston MBTA, and (new) Barrie.

TTC board declares workers essential

by Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

In a surprise vote, the new TTC board has endorsed removing transit workers’ right to strike, even though studies show arbitrated contracts could cost the TTC more in wages.

The move pre-empts a debate on essential services at the first working meeting of City Council under Mayor Rob Ford on Thursday.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday that he’s onside if Toronto asks the province to declare TTC workers essential — a designation that would prohibit them from striking.

But such a move could actually make riders more vulnerable to labour disruptions, because the 10,000 unionized TTC workers could still work to rule, warned the head of the transit workers’ union.

“In fact, it would ensure a work-to-rule and dragging out the disruption and the frustration between management and union,” said Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

Its contract expires March 31, potentially putting the TTC in a strike position by April. But Kinnear said he doubts the province would have time to pass essential-services legislation by then.

If the city wants to put transit workers in the same category as life-saving professions such as firefighters, police and paramedics, it should be prepared to pay similar salaries and benefits, he said.

“We do not believe the removal of our service jeopardizes public safety to that degree,” he said, adding that the TTC and its union have an agreement to operate para-transit services in the event of a strike.

There have been 13 days of transit strikes in the past 30 years, said Kinnear.

But transit commissioner Cesar Palacio said there had been more than 100 days of labour disruption at the TTC, if work slowdowns are included.

The city councillor for Ward 17, Davenport, who introduced the essential-services motion, said transit strikes cost $50 million a day.

“There are over 25 per cent of families that don’t have cars,” he said. “The real ones who are going to be suffering are the working poor, the students, senior citizens, people who simply cannot afford a taxi.”

The TTC and its union could still reach a negotiated settlement even if the TTC was deemed an essential service, said TTC chair Karen Stintz. The last two city contracts with firefighters did not require the involvement of an arbitrator.

“It is our expectation that we will work to build good relationships with our labour partners, … that we will continue to provide the highest rates of pay in the GTA, … so I don’t see why we would create this environment where we couldn’t realize our shared goals,” she said.

“I’m still very open to the idea,” McGuinty said Wednesday. “What I’m doing … is leaving it up to the city, the council, to determine what it is they would like to do and then we would consider that.

“Hopefully, it’s something that’s sensible that we could support,” he said.

At its first business meeting since the election, the new TTC board also went against a staff recommendation and decided to extend a discounted $99 student Metropass program to 15,000 full-time students at private career colleges in the Toronto area, as of March. It’s not clear if the extension will apply as well to 65,000 students at schools of applied arts and technology.

Single father Paul Goold was among about 50 students who came to the commission asking for the discount that was awarded to community college and university students this year.

“The $22 (discount) makes a significant difference to my monthly budget. It enables me to buy additional groceries,” he said.

With files from Rob Benzie




dividerinside