Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ottawa transit strike: Day 30

The potentially historic thirtieth day of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 strike, in which members vote on the city's most recent contract offer, continues. Word on the results of the strike is expected after 8 p.m. tonight, once the voting closes. In the headlines for the day:

The Ottawa Sun is quoting some anonymous drivers suggesting that, although union leadership is asking them to vote against the offer, it might be close as some members "want to get back to work." Those interviewed by the Sun wouldn't say they were going to vote in favour of the offer, but some suggested that there will be members doing so, and so the vote may be close, if it's not a 'yes' vote on acceptance.

Should the union vote down the offer, the Ottawa Business Journal quoted Toronto-based labour lawyer Howard Levitz suggesting that City Council needs to consider hiring replacement workers, and quickly. Levitz said that the measure would take power out of the hands of the union, and that most drivers would eventually follow those who cross the picket lines. He also said that, if the city were to negotiate, it creates a precedent where other municipal unions would hold out for increased pay and benefits.

Ottawa Metro also explored the possibility of seeking replacement workers if (as?) the strike drags on. Mayor Larry O'Brien refused to comment on replacement workers in particular, but he did mention that council would explore "all of the legally available mitigation options" for the city--and, according to city manager Kent Kirkpatrick, replacement workers would be legal in order to maintain operations.

Finally, the Ottawa Citizen's Randall Denley addressed the claim that the strike was not about money, and refuted it. He suggested that another sticking point is the annual pay increases, which include a retroactive 3.25 per cent increase on last year and two per cent increases for this year and next year, while the union demands three. If the city concedes, according to Denley, the rest of the city work force would make similar salary demands, which could end up costing the city $30M--translating roughly to a three per cent property tax increase.


Anonymous said...

I feel that with these times that people should be greatful for what they have, yes i understand they have a right to strike and to be heard, but do you know how many people that have education degress and are willing to settle for a lowing paying job to to make ends meat, and here we have OC workers that make decent money and benefits wanting more,I work for many restaurants and see our employee'd earning minimum wage willing to walk to work sometimes an hour, just to put food on the table, for minimum wage, common people you are spolied, its time for the government to step up force them back to work or fire them all. There are thousands of quailifed people out there to do there jobs.

Anonymous said...

The City needs to hire replacements and keep the union out for 6 months. After that they can apply to have the union dissolved and fire all of them.