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TTC okays essential service request

by Don Peat
City Hall Bureau

Transit commissioners have endorsed Mayor Rob Ford’s push to declare the TTC an essential service against the advice of TTC brass.

The move came at the first meeting of the new commission since TTC chairman Karen Stintz took over and one day before city council votes on asking the province to make the declaration.

Senior TTC staff have maintained since 2008 that the TTC should not be an essential service.

Councillor Maria Augimeri was the lone member of the commission to vote against the essential service endorsement.

She warned the move will disrespect taxpayers, cost more and won’t guarantee an increase in service reliability.

“We haven’t taken into full account what it actually means for Torontonians and taxpayers,” she said. “We are now poised to enter a precedent-setting customer service movement, why would we throw a monkey wrench into the works? We would poison the possibility of union cooperation.”

TTC commissioners Norm Kelly and John Parker weren’t in the room when the vote took place.

Councillor Frank DiGiorgio said although he voted against the move in the past, he was now in favour of declaring transit workers essential, arguing Torontonians don’t want the disruption of a work stoppage.

“No one wants to be held hostage by a small group of people that can literally paralyze an entire city,” he said.

Outside the meeting, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear said he was shocked the commission even considered the motion when it wasn’t on the agenda.

Councillor Cesar Palacio brought forward the motion and commissioners agreed to consider it without notice.

“The normal process, at least as long as I’ve been attending the commission meetings for the last seven years, is that it is part of the agenda when a motion is going to be moved forward, enabling the public or (the union) to make a deputation to bring forward some actual facts related to essential service,” Kinnear said.

Kinnear said Tuesday if TTC workers are deemed essential, he would argue they should be paid at the same level as other essential services like Toronto Police and Toronto firefighters.

The union boss pointed out essential service wouldn’t keep TTC workers from a work-to-rule campaign.

“I think this commission is on the fast track to implement some of the proposals that Mayor Ford has brought forward, it is disappointing that they are not looking at the potential implications of some of these decisions but before we actually feel the pinch of some of these decisions the four years will probably lapse and they may not even be here,” Kinnear said.