Monday, February 28, 2011

Transit union has a new president

As you might have seen reported in most Ottawa news media, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 279 elected a new president last week. The new boss is Garry Queale, a longtime driver and dispatcher for OC Transpo, and his first comments should be welcome: "I want to negotiate a fair deal for our members, and not do it through the TV and radio and newspapers."

His full (and brief) comment, from the Ottawa Citizen:
"My priority is to work within the membership to boost morale and work with the city together, and not through the media," said Queale, a longtime dispatcher with OC Transpo. "We’ve been through lots of battles and I want to negotiate a fair deal for our members, and not do it through the TV and radio and newspapers. I know Mayor Jim Watson; I’m sure I can work with him."
The last president of the ATU 279 was certainly commendable for the passion with which he fought for his union, but came under fire for his unapologetic comments in the media. And acting president Mike Aldrich, who served while Cornellier he was in poor health and since his mid-January passing, was no stranger to the media, and routinely offered his comments whenever asked--whether the subject was his membership, or simply OC Transpo as a whole.

Citizens and ATU members are both likely relieved to see someone who, at least initially, is more interested in negotiating with the city rather than negotiating through the media. The toxic atmosphere through 2008-09 transit strike was contributed to by poor choices on both sides, and poor decisions made by both Cornellier and former mayor Larry O'Brien in particular. Hopefully in this round of negotiations, with the sides led by quieter leaders Queale and Watson, we'll see a more amicable resolution.