Sunday, January 11, 2009

Can council back down on scheduling?

An Ottawa Citizen story this morning suggested that the City's stance on the now-infamous scheduling issue, the most contentious sticking point in negotiations with ATU 279, might be more malleable than it seems.

On Friday, Mayor Larry O’Brien gave the first indication that the city would waver from its hardline position on scheduling, the key point of contention that led to the city’s longest transit strike in history, now 33 days old.

Any proposal put on the table by the union, however, must include the same cost savings and improvements to safety and reliability as in the city offer, [City manager Kent] Kirkpatrick said.

The city said its changes to scheduling could save $3.4 million a year.

“As long as it’s the same total financial cost, it doesn’t have to come out of scheduling,” Mr. Kirkpatrick said.

Later on in the story, college councillor Rick Chiarelli was wary of that change of approach.

“Does the mayor have the mandate to say this?” he asked. “I don’t believe council has approved any change in our position on scheduling.”

If the union can offer similar cost savings through other concessions, the story says, then council could vote on the revised offer as soon as Wednesday.

The union was unavailable for comment in the story, though, so it is unclear whether or not they are willing to find room in negotiations for $3.4 million in savings, or where it could come from. City officials gave no indication where that money could be found.

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