Through his mayoral campaign and since, mayor Jim Watson has been stating his intention to mend the relationship between the city and the union; on the day she was selected as chair of the transit commission, Gloucester-Southgate Councillor Diane Deans talked to CTV Ottawa about "a new era of co-operation" between the two sides. Although it's still very early in their respective mandates (Deans was just approved as chair of the commission yesterday), neither has done much, if anything, in the way of tangible action to change anything.
Meanwhile, OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier has initiated a survey of workers to get to the bottom of the seemingly ever-present low morale issues at OC Transpo--a survey which, according to acting president of the ATU 279 Mike Aldrich, is identical to one which was done five years ago, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen. Aldrich said issues are the same as were determined in the previous survey--"running times, scheduling and poor morale throughout the company"--and didn't approve sending the survey out.
On the other side, the ATU 279 leadership is using some more strongly-armed tactics, putting pressure on the city to make changes even before the union will agree to come to the table. Aldrich has complained that the negotiating team--led by Mercier--is the same as it was during the last negotiation, and that he wants to see some "changes" before proceeding with negotiations. From the CBC:
"We have the same players negotiating the same proposals," said Aldrich, referring to the 51-day strike in 2008-09 that shut down buses in the city.
"We know what happened last time. I'm not interested in going down that road."
"One of [Watson's] campaign promises was to repair the poisoned atmosphere at OC Transpo but so far nothing has been fixed," Aldrich said. "So until we see some changes, or improvements, we'll wait."
Although posturing such as this isn't really uncommon in labour discussions, it's still a little unsettling to hear that issues remain, and that these issues are enough to delay advance negotiations. On the plus side, both sides have said they want to avoid a strike; Aldrich told the CBC that there is "no way the union wants a strike".