Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Public opinion strongly against OC Transpo

Although far from a scientific study, public opinion on Internet forums, newspaper comments, and this blog seems to be strongly against the OC Transpo in the labour strife between the City of Ottawa and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) that represents drivers, mechanics, and dispatchers.

The most recently-rejected offer (which you can read on the City's website, click here) from the city included wage increases of three, two, and two percent over the next three years, according to the Ottawa Citizen. That offer wasn't submitted to a vote of union members because, according to union President André Cornellier, the offer--a quarter of a percent higher than the previous one--wasn't significantly different from a previous vote that the union voted 98 percent against accepting. In the Citizen story, Cornellier suggested that bigger issues of "the scheduling of drivers, improved sick leave and contracting out of maintenance" remain unresolved.

Although the Citizen's new format doesn't enable comments, a similar article on CBC.ca had a number of comments reflecting a swing of public opinion in favour of the City's position on the issue. Some of the comments make sweeping generalizations about the drivers, some are condemnations of the union, but here are a few of the most well-stated:
"The greed of this union amazes me. Job losses are soaring all over the country yet our transit workers feel that they deserve more, and have decided to cut-off essential services until they get it. And the sad part is, they'll probably get their way. Has anyone in the union stopped to think about people who can't afford alternative methods of transportation and will lose their income because of this? I'm sure the extra sick days are worth it though... " --Anon1234

"I hope the transit workers come to their senses and rebel against this Union. Their hostage taking tactics are doing nothing to gain them public respect, nor for those they represent. Quite the opposite in fact!" --Dee of Canada

"Keep this up and the PEOPLE WHO PAY YOUR CHEQUES will start their own war cry...PRIVATIZE OC TRANSPO!!!! England has privatized their train system and the sky didnt fall. I dont agree with privatizing everything and often support the labour movement, but this is insane! The union is an out of touch aristocracy who have a disgusting sense of entitlement. I bet we could put off the city tax hike if we privatized OC Transpo and paid these yahoos 15-20$/hr instead of 25-30. Its been done. We can do it too. All that needs to happen is for the public to demand it. Keep it up guys and the public will." -- MTCicero

"It's time OCTranspo had some competition. Who's going to start up a private bus company and see OCTranspo sweat when they realise what competitive business means." --Stanica

"OCTranspo should be an essential service! The city should protect itself from such a mess happenning every three years and just make it impossible for the bus drivers to go on strike." --That Guy
On the LiveJournal OCTranspo community (which includes a lot of drivers commenting), there's more anti-OC Transpo sentiment, but there also some sympathy for the drivers on there:
"Personally, I think they should get whatever they want. They're a pretty essential service in the city as far as I'm concerned, and what's the difference between 8 and 10 sick days? Who cares?! Get them what they want so the buses can get back on the streets so we're not all suffering and feeling punished!" --elektrafying

"Sorry Ottawa, but instead of blaming / hating us [OC drivers] for what alot of people feel were about to do to the city, look at your city and ask them why they've abandoned you at this time of year... Our contract expired on April 1st of this year, it take 2 parties to negotiate a contract." --billybigrig

"The wages aren't the issue, this is about scheduling, contracting out, and sick days. If they offered the same wage package, but left the booking process alone, amended the contracting out a bit, and made the sick days more in line with what office staff at OC get (they get 12 days/yr, we get 6, and they are allowed to carry unused days forward or get them paid out, we are not), then the contract would be a done deal!" --niceocdriver

And finally, (and most importantly?) the comments right here on Public Transit in Ottawa are strongly against the demands of the ATU:
"Comments left on CBC and CTV web sites are overwhelmingly against OC Transpo drivers.And this in the middle of exam week. A great real-life lesson for students on the power of unions over the little guy." --Klaus

"Greediness will not get you far. It's about time to teach the lesson that having a tantrum does not always mean you get what you want! In times where money is tight, it's a shame they feel a higher raise is deserved. Many of us have had to forego larger wage increases this year just to ensure we still have jobs. I cannot begin to express how disgusted I am with how they are acting, wanting more money than is available to go around. Quit complaining and be thankful for your job!" --Anonymous

"1. Public transit should become an essential service (like health care).
"2. It is utterly disgusting that they show so much greed while the rest of the world is tightening the belt during the present economic hardship. It is not the time to insist on getting more. Not while hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs. Short term victories acquired through poor attitude can only result in longterm dire consequences. I wouldn't be surprised if their greed would push the system into either making them an essential service (therefore forbidding them from going on strike) or privatizing the transit system (in which case, if they'll wish they hadn't pushed so far that it came to shove)." --Anonymous


Anonymous said...

On the bus ride home, my bus driver (who is fantastic!) mentioned that the only issue still outstanding is the scheduling. She said that the drivers are prepared to accept the rest of the City's proposals (2 additional sick days, 7% pay increase over the next 3 years).
Apparently, every few months, the drivers are allowed to choose whether or not to continue with their current routes or to change entirely. The City wants to remove this clause from the contract.
I can understand both perspectives. For drivers who like their routes (and the riders who like their drivers), this is frustrating. But I am sure that no one wants to drive the 95 at midnight on a Saturday and that it's hard to find someone to fill this shift and the City just wants to ensure that they can always do this.
However, things seem to have worked out well thus far with this clause in place, so if this is, in fact, the ONLY outstanding issue, I'm not sure why the City doesn't just capitulate.

Anonymous said...

Why must we suffer so much? Other cities such as Montreal and Toronto pay almost the same amount as we do for a monthly pass. Why is it that they seem to receive such better service?? Commentators on the CBC page noted that something like this is highly unlikely to occur in the above 2 mentioned cities. So why do we let this happen to us?
Anyone who watched CTV news tonight at 6 was able to see that Andre Cornellier does not give a rat's ass about the citizens of Ottawa. When asked if he would give union members a last chance to vote tonight before midnight he simply answered 'No'. Carol Anne Meehan beautifully maintained her composure and asked 'Why not?' to which Mr. Cornellier responded 'Why?' Perhaps the head of an organization aimed at achieving common goals not only does not care about the residents of the city but also the members of this union. Generally speaking most workers generally do not care for strikes as they are disruptive and often cast a negative light on the organization.
I think it is time that the we, the users of this so-called service, take back the control. First thing on the list, get rid of Andre "it's not about the money but give me more" Cornellier.

Anonymous said...

First of all, after firing all the busdrivers, the city should divide up all OC Transpo assets and sell them off to the highest bidders.

Second, the mayor and city council are idiots for reasons quoted from the press:

"O’Brien said
those who use public transit won’t have trouble finding other means of getting around the city."

"The city is encouraging Ottawans to avoid rush hour, carpool, or work from home, if possible. The press release even suggests “cycling.”"

Cycling up to 20 km to work in one foot of snow. I want to see the mayor do it.

pookzilla said...

Much like JaM above, I couldn't help but notice the disdain that the union president Andre Cornellier has for the city of Ottawa and its citizens. His attitude and presentation were downright shocking. If I were a transit union member I would expect his resignation when this is all through - interviews such as that only serve to damage the unions reputation and put their welfare in jeopardy. How can anyone feel sympathy for an organization when THAT is the face they put forward?

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no sympathy for the drivers or their union. I have worked hard to earn a university degree and get a challenging job. I continue to work hard. Despite my hard work, bus drivers--who do work that anone can do after taking a brief driving course and then learning to drive by you when you wave for them to stop--earn about 25% more starting salary than I do. It's time they learn what a competitive industry means. End the OC Transpo monopoly!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I have a lot of respect for bus drivers and the technicians. Working with the public isn't always easy, and they execute their tasks with professionalism. The problem is that, we are in a economic crisis right now. Christmas is around the corner and people need to get around to buy presents for their children and loved ones. Students are currently undergoing final exams, which some count for nearly 75% of their final grade. Thousands of students use the bus everyday to go to school. Cycling to school or work in the snow is out of the question due to mere security reasons. Walking from places like Licoln Fields, south keys, orleans or kanata is also out of the question. More cars on the road, that's the only option. Every heard of global warming? Oc transpo bus drivers (or technicians, rather) already have a very good deal. The city's offer is fair. People will not react positively to this. People will not understand how oc transpo workers can just sit around and watch everyone suffer because of scheduling and sick days.. Do you guys have a conscience? You work for the public guys. You one or another of us everyday. Think about us. Do you want us to spit in you're face every time we get on the bus? Do you want us to treat you with respect an dignity, as you deserve? In that case, don't penalize us for a problem you have with the city. If you do this, the people won't support you because they won't understand why you guys chose to go on strike, and consequently penalize the population. They will end up supporting the very people you are negotiating with.

Anonymous said...

I too watched Cornelier on the CJOH 6pm news and I was shocked by his unprofessional, abrasive manner. Good luck to anyone negotiating with this guy.

That said, city council can make this go away very quickly by leaving the shift booking alone.

Anonymous said...

So let's see...we're going into a "recession" and these people think they can get a raise and more sick days? Perhaps these people should get a snap back to reality and see what it's like to work in a private sector. no sick days, 2 weeks holidays a year, half of what they get paid hourly, etc. The only reason they make so much is because it's not completely privatized. Imagine me working in the private sector going to my company with everyone else and saying WE DEMAND THIS...they would most likely send my job over to another country also and me be out of a job. And with all us people working in private sectors losing our jobs, we no longer have a need for transportation to get to work, can no longer afford to go to school etc, and on top of it definitely cannot afford a bus pass or bus ticket and then no need for OC Transpo, and they will all be out of jobs!

Think about it OC transpo, because clearly your not! 2 weeks before Christmas, how are you going to be able to pay for presents for your kids? Oh yeah that's right, you make double what I make an hour so you can afford to go without pay for 2 weeks.

Anonymous said...

From Above: "Personally, I have a lot of respect for bus drivers and the technicians..."

Respect has little to do with it. We may respect each other for the work we do. That doesn't make it right that drivers--who are have privliged jobs and income, above those of well educated people, and far above those retailers or even many blue collar workers--should mope and whine and make life difficult for everybody during an already difficult season, especially during hard economic times. They are cry babies, and competition is what they deserve. It will put them in the right place. They will earn what they really deserve, not the inflated income they are stealing out of our pockets and taxes.

Anonymous said...

New drivers start at 60K, the salary list in Ontario actually lists at least two guys at the 105K mark.

That's more than universities grads usually get, more than teachers, more than cops.

And they're being offered a 7% raise.

They say it's about respect not money, and then they're extorting the city when the weather turns bad and exams are about to begin, actively blocking intersections with picket lines. You want respect? Try acting in a respectable way.

Fuck them.

Declare it an essential service so the unions are happy, and then lay every motherfucking one of them off for some recent immigrant who will probably speak better English, be nicer people, and do better work for a much more reasonable wage.

Anonymous said...

We've just managed to avoid an attempt by Stephen Harper to take away the right to strike from some sectors. The actions of this union are making people think Harper has a point.

In addition, OC Transpo drivers have not endeared themselves to many recently. There was the incident of the driver who drove off with a child on the bus but left the mother behind. Was it Mr. Cornelier who had the temerity to blame the mother?

I have had a number of unpleasant encounters recently too: being left at a stop despite frantic signalling; buses running early; being lectured by a driver on why my stop request signal was inadequate and the driver was within his rights to leave me behind; on informing a driver that one of the bells on the bus was not working and getting a look that said "get lost".

All of this reflects badly on the union and the drivers (some of whom are actually pleasant)
which is unfortunate since there has been plenty of time for the parties involved to agree on a contract.

Anonymous said...

To quote a co-worker, "I'd tell the drivers and the ATU to go to hell, but I suspect they already have booked the place solid."

I am in agreement with teh majority of posters - fire the whining lot of sandbox drop-outs and give their jobs to those who would be willing to work hard and perhaps be less crude and rude.

to mr cormlier the ATU Furher: You just are the most pristine embodiment of the term 'jerk' I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Running a transit system costs the city money. So for every day the union strikes, the city is saving money while the union members are losing money. After a couple of weeks (maybe 3) the city will have saved enough money to be able to afford to pay the increase in wages (oh yeah and that respect stuff too). Meanwhile the union members miss their paychecks at Christmas time and have managed to piss everyone off so much that they will never earn the respect back that they had before the strike. Methinks the union guys aren't the brightest bulbs in the lamp. They certainly have a lousy communication strategy.

Anonymous said...

Here is Andre Cornellier's phone number. Give him a call and tell him what you think.

(613) 738-3177 ext 227

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular OC user, and I support the mayor 100% on this issue.

I hope the refunds people with passes, and I hope that some of the drivers lose their house when they can't pay the mortgage.

I also hope the drivers are required to picket on Canada day when that rolls around.

Enjoy your $25 a day, hope that feeds the kids.

Ben said...

The comparisons between the so-called "educated" university or college grads and transit employees needs to stop.

Salary is based on market demand (and union demands apparently), not merit to the world. That whole argument is out of whack. Want to make the money a bus driver makes? Then stop complaining about your supposed merit to society and start driving a bus.

This strike needs to stop, but it won't until idiotic arguments such as this are put aside.

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure why the City is so desperate to determine a bus driver's schedule. Here are some of the questions I have.

Will it cost the City more money or endanger the lives of the passengers if we continue to allow bus drivers to create their own schedule as they have been for the past one hundred years (as stated by OC Transpo on CJOH news)?

I understand that some bus drivers have been working dangerously high double shifts, but neither OC Transpo or the City approve of this. Hence, that issue can be resolved without a strike.

What dire outcome are we trying to avoid? They've been scheduling their shifts for the past hundred years.

What recent development has left the City of Ottawa so determined to take away the driver's scheduling rights?

And if the City does win and we take away their scheduling rights, what benefit have we received in return for the cost of enduring this strike?

Anonymous said...

Said Ben:

The comparisons between the so-called "educated" university or college grads and transit employees needs to stop.

Salary is based on market demand (and union demands apparently), not merit to the world.

Who the hell is talking about benefit to the world?

Unions have nothing to do with market demand, and that's what's being pointed out. Unless you're pretending the supply part of market demand doesn't exist.

Talk about idiotic arguments.
You've been drinking again, right?

Anonymous said...

What recent development has left the City of Ottawa so determined to take away the driver's scheduling rights?

And if the City does win and we take away their scheduling rights, what benefit have we received in return for the cost of enduring this strike?

The City is trying to set a fair wage for fair work, for all seniority levels.

This is not what the union is set up to do, and the scheduling/seniority are being cleverly abused to ensure some people get consistently better shifts, have an easier time getting overtime with undue frequency, and a variety of other things that make everything less safe for everyone.

Don't pretend this is about safety though. Striking in the middle of snowstorm weather at exams, at christmas, does nothing but endanger people's safety.

Anonymous said...

Our fine citizens of this city are hearing the information in a twisted fashion. And have been from the very start. The city has the money ( our money) to run ads and radio spots. I am not a bus driver but was back in the early 80's. I am still working for OC Transpo in another department and am just finishing up the last years of my career. Im in year 28 with about 5 more to go. I'm a member of ATU 279. Hence, I'm out on strike. The complexities of working at OC Transpo cannot be explained as simply as people wish it to be. It's an extensive and very diverse group of people out on strike....not just Bus Drivers. A lot of these people are trades-people, skilled labourers, specialized troubleshooters and on and on. We hold many different kinds of licenses and have training that is very specific to our occupations. Forget the replacement workers. It isn't reality. The image that certain people like to cast about OC Transpo workers being ignorant louts is not true in all cases. There are some uneducated bus drivers for sure. There are some very educated bus drivers and well decorated ( 29 years without a traffic incident ? when driving 55,000 city miles per year and carrying about 110,000 passengers annually ( those are old numbers from the 80's) One thing for certain they have thick hides from many years of abuse. By the management and sometimes the public can be a very uninformed , careless customer. It all takes it toll. We all know the job. And we all knew what we were getting into...that's not the point. You know your job...and I dont ....well same situation in reverse. I dont expect the public to understand my job and I dont approach it that way. To try to paint this group with one brush is human nature...but is not anywhere near the truth. There are many educated and experienced common sense people working there. There would have to be...we have many transit awards for safety and efficiency ( you dont hear anything about that now do you ?)The managers of OC Transpo come and go...mayors come and go...negotiatiors come and go...union leaders have remained fairly consistent in my experience. Over the years we have tended to cycle the same people ( with some exceptions) on board our executive. Wiley veterans. You may not like Andre Cornellier, but dont under-estimate him either. He is very very experienced. Yes . he isn't a good spokeperson...( he has already said that) He is also a man who feels very emotional about his members. So to balance that out we got Randy " the clinician" Graham to come on down. When Randy Graham ( ATU interantional Vice President) and once upon a time Ottawa bus driver came from Toronto to wade into the negotiations 2 weeks in and couldnt settle it...it sent a very dire message to the members of 279. If Randy Graham couldn't settle what was at the heart of the strike...then there really was something seriously wrong. Like I said I've been with OC 28 years and I've seen Randy Graham settle every single strike...fairly, and with duty and honor to both sides. I truly believe that the current head of OC Transpo is very inexperienced at settling labour disputes. In fact he seems to be inflaming it. The mayor I am never voting for again. He doesn't seem to have the capacity or experience to deal with unions...and doesn't want to make a move , as he is using ATU 279 as a precedent setting model for the 12 or 13 unions to come. Thats all well and good but there are a lot of people waiting for the city to start getting serious. Im not being fecitious when I say ...he picked on the wrong union to get his white belt with. Next topic in this essay is. Drivers DONT make their schedules. Drviers pick from what is put on the board from OC Transpo's scheduling people....in order of seniority. It is all pieces of work. OC Transpo has never cared less about how hard it was on their drivers ( to piece these pieces of work together) and I cant imagine that Alain Mercier is suddenly the new saviour. They will report in the paper that they are doing this for safety and all manner of explanations when the employees know that the high managers of OC Transpo only care about one thing. Looking good. And it has been 28 years on my behalf of making many a saviour look good. That may sound cynical and it is. After 28 years you tend to have seen it all ...or most of it. You do get a bit crass. It''s not about drivers schedules. Its about seniority and messing with the system we all toiled through without complaint. The quiet group of OC employees that get it done. The ones you dont hear on the radio or see pictures of in the news. There's 2,300 of us. Not just the evil people you see on the ten second news blip. When we voted no on the forced vote ( unprecedented...a forced vote because O'brien knows Baird, who knows Ambrose) We all knew the 2500 or insert number here signing bonus was bogus and sure enough it came true today. Seniority is all we have at OC Transpo and this contract is playing with people's seniority. That is the essence of why it will never be settled the way it is being presented now. I ask the citizens of Ottawa to look at both sides of something rather than just taking some journalists word for it. That being said we are innately creatures of our environment....so when you are hearing this misinformation constantly all day long...you begin to think it is the actual truth. As a 28 year veteran of OC Transpo...I apologize for this. I dont really feel it is personally on me but if it makes you feel good...you can blame me. It's much easier that way I guess...than to seek the real truth which is shrouded by very slippery political people. I say congratualtions to Clive Doucet....he actually had it right. Alex Cullen too. There's a gag order on down at city hall....so dont' let the same dog bite you twice. Lastly the City doesn't mention how much it is going to cost to fire up all those buses again. Last strike in the mid ninties...I remember the cover up on that. It cost something astonomical. Those machines are used to running 22 hours a day. Wow. In the several million dollar range plus. Not to mention, service disruptions once we get back online...with buses failing left right and center. Press the right people for the solutions. We are trying to find a solution but city hall seems to be a very confused bunch or else they ( like today) try to present this front like they are all on the same page...but what are they actually saying to all of us ? I ask the public to not let these politicions and talk show hosts pit the citizenry against the front line workers. Like most of you reading this...we take it on the chin every day, For the talk show hosts and people who assert to threaten harm to OC Transpo workers..or our workplaces that public have access to, I would really discourage that. It's again , placing your anger and frustration on the shoulders of the wrong people for the most part. I thank you reading this long entry and thank you for your patience in this ridiculously long strike. If you started to press the councillors and didnt let the media get away with bogus assertions...then more pressure would begin to fall on the real people at the heart of the problems. The managers of OC Transpo and the Mayor of the City...and that awful negotiating team and strategy. We are to blame as employees in that it is easy to blame us...so if that is what makes you feel like you're asserting yourself properly , then my heart goes out to you. It's time to focus very strongly on the proper players in this. The media and the mayor have been enjoying toying with the truth. And as long as you stand behind them...I don't see this coming to an end. I'm not being negative..just trying to be pragmatic and open. I understand the frustration. Some of us don't want to be out on strike.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous bus driver of 28 years,

Since you are not working, can I borrow your car? My feet hurt.

I think the people of Ottawa would be more sympathetic to the needs of bus drivers if we weren't so cold and tired.

Why not strike in the summer?

The information I have heard from the union puts the issues around scheduling, particularly hours.

Many many jobs have drawbacks. Did you know that doctors, for example, also often work very long days?

Speaking of long days, my days have been especially long due to my two hour walking commute in -20 degree weather.

Anyhow, I hope that you are well, warm, and finding ways to keep busy during your time off.

Let me know about that car.


Lady with tired feet

Anonymous said...

"...The complexities of working at OC Transpo cannot be explained as simply as people wish it to be. It's an extensive and very diverse group of people out on strike....not just Bus Drivers. A lot of these people are trades-people, skilled labourers,..."

I can't believe a Bus driver wrote this. !
(No offense to government workers also) but you are ALL LUCKY TO EVEN HAVE A JOB today Mr. PUSS driver !!!

Do you think you people are Doctors ? or engineers? "...complextities of your JOB..." comon !!! stop the BS.

WHAT ?!!! you drive an oversized VAN you pompous _________ !!!
I for one, and many like me have now got a used vehicle instead. Its more reliable AND on time than you.
I sincerely hope many of you now get laid-off all because of your arrogant UNION.

Spoiled OLD brats don't deserve respect. Retirement ? hurry up and go for it.
Let younger Canadians who NEED work do it.

Anonymous said...

In a lot of different jobs, employees are subjected to people being rude, being yelled at and so forth, it is NEVER acceptable to yell the way that bus drive did ... I read that one bus driver said "But Queale said the feeling among already-frustrated drivers that they must also now fear losing their jobs if they can't keep their emotions in check is only making things worse." yes that is completely normal, if you loose it, you`ll get fired.

"Stop the witch-hunt against our operators, or action will be taken." its not a witch-hunt, they have proof that the bus drivers are not acting like they should ... if you make the decision to work in customer service, you are aware of what that entails, if you cannot take it,than find another job, many people would be very happy to have your job, leave it for someone that wants it. And you cannot be so close minded about this not to realize the reason people are so fed up with the bus drivers is because you guys went on a strike during the holidays a few years back. If you do it again, things wont get better that is for sure.

I am soooo tired of hearing them complain about everything, before deciding to become a bus driver you knew what it meant, its customer service, its a bus. dont text or talk on the phone people will see you, its illegal even for you. don`t yell at customers because that is simply unacceptable and don`t leave your bus because you don`t feel like dealer with a customer , you were late deal with it, you are not suppose to be late. Easy people.

there is proof that the service is getting terrible.