Friday, August 28, 2009

What if the ATU votes against binding arbitration?

In a little under a month, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 union will vote on whether or not to accept binding arbitration in all future contract negotiations, thereby relinquishing their right to strike in exchange for a third-party to dictate terms for the new deal signed.

The vote is part of the resolution to the Union's 52-day strike in the winter of 2008-09, but, according to reports on 580 CFRA, it's far from a certainty that the operators and mechanics in the union will approve the arrangement:
The drivers, mechanics and dispatchers will vote on the agreement on September 24th. Although the deal ended last winter's lengthy and bitter strike, it also gave up the union’s powerful right to strike, in favour of sending outstanding disagreements to binding arbitration.


One driver source says a big reason for opposition to the deal is that it would look good on Mayor Larry O'Brien -- who was villainized by the union, and actually was on leave when the deal was struck.
Putting aside the fact that voting down an agreement that many see as favourable to unions and which will ensure no stoppage in the union member's work (and keeps their paycheques coming) in order to spite a mayor whose four-year mandate will be over shortly might seem impulsive, what could a no-vote mean to the City of Ottawa and its residents?

First of all, it won't mean an immediate transit strike. Both sides of the recent dispute have both agreed to arbitration to settle this current contract negotiation.

But, according to that same report on CFRA's website, it could be a blow to the city's reputation when negotiating with other unions in the city. Ottawa has had issues negotiating with unions in the past, the winter strike being the most recent example, and such a vote wouldn't set a very positive precedent for future negotiations.

Finally, it would mean residents could be faced with another transit strike whenever this current agreement--whose results are anticipated by the end of September--comes to an end. The most recent transit strike was hard for many citizens and businesses, and left both sides with egg on their face. Although ridership has rebounded strongly since the strike came to an end, another transit strike so closely following this past one would run the risk of damaging OC Transpo's ridership numbers irreperably--a scary prospect with a $5B transit system upgrade coming soon.

1 comment:

WJM said...

scary prospect with a $5B transit system upgrade coming soon.

The 2050s isn't "soon".