Thursday, December 23, 2010

Is OC Transpo an essential service?

Public transit news made some waves earlier in the week when the Ottawa Sun ran a cover story featuring Toronto mayor Rob Ford saying that Ottawa should make OC Transpo an essential service, similar to what he's trying to do with public transit in his city.
“They should do the same thing,” said Ford when contacted by the Ottawa Sun on the subject. “It’s definitely an issue. We had 13 strikes in Toronto and it cost us $50 million a day.”
My immediate reaction was: Why are we asking the mayor of another city why Ottawa's public transit should be declared an essential service?

But after deciding to move beyond that question, I remembered the discussion of making OC Transpo an essential service in the aftermath of the 2008-09 winter transit strike. The Canadian Industrial Relations Board, which has jurisdiction over OC Transpo because of the inter-provincial routes included, sought to determine whether or not such a designation was fitting, and both the city and the union argued that it wasn't an essential service. Certain citizen groups had argued in favour of the designation, but given those counter-arguments, it wasn't done.

In response to Ford's comments, Amalgamated Transit Union 279 interim president Mike Aldrich said he was "surprised" by the comments.

My opinion on the matter is that public transit is most definitely an essential service for some people in the city. Although legislating it would be difficult, a partial solution for Ottawa may be designating the core of OC Transpo service essential (for instance, Transitway routes 95-96-97 and select others, like the 106), as was suggested by Klaus Beltzner (B.Sc., M.Math., M.B.A, and member of Friends of the O-Train) a couple of years back.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Rob Ford doesn't understand that once TTC is an essential service, Toronto City Council loses all control over payroll costs.

If the external arbitrator decides to award TTC employees a 10% pay raise and an extra two weeks/year holiday, Toronto ratepayers will just have to cough up.

Andrae Griffith said...

For the record, the second most recent TTC strike was ruled to have been illegal and essential service designation would not have prevented it at all.

(A group of janitors were switched from days to nights against their will, so they showed up for their day shifts in protest. When they were told to go home the union considered this a lockout and things went from there. This argument did not hold up in court).

If Ottawa is to go down the same road, I hope council and the public fully understands what ES designation does and doesn't do.

RealGrouchy said...

I didn't realize that Ford's comments were in response to a request from the Ottawa Sun. Thanks for pointing that out, it gives it more context, and a local whipping boy for this latest uproar.

- RG>