Thursday, March 3, 2011

Everyone's talking about another OC Transpo strike

It seems like everyone's pretty pessimistic about the possibility of avoiding a transit strike during this year's negotiations between OC Transpo and the City of Ottawa. Considering the virulent back-and-forth between both sides through the last one, people can probably be forgiven for their cynicism.

Although the possibility of a strike has been in everyone's mind for quite a few weeks, it really took off when former mayor Larry O'Brien penned a guest column for the Ottawa Citizen suggesting that we're headed down the same road as we were last time. David Reevely pointed out a few falsehoods in O'Brien's op/ed on the Greater Ottawa blog, but even if the factors O'Brien pointed to are flawed, the fact that some of the same issues which caused the last transit strike remain unsolved is undeniable.

On the plus side, no one wants a transit strike. Or at least both sides say they want to avoid one. From the city's perspective, a strike would be disastrous, and would likely be something saddled on mayor Jim Watson--whether it's fair or not--after he promised to work on repairing strained relations with OC Transpo. Unions never really want to go on strike, but it is one of few options available to them in negotiation; still, with the last strike so fresh in their minds, you've got to think the ATU 279 are especially dreading the possibility--their new president, Garry Queale, said in one of his first interviews that he's not in favour of a strike (although his predecessor, Mike Aldrich, said the same thing weeks before walking away from negotiations).

If you think Toronto's recent advances towards an essential service designation for the TTC might pave the way for a similar one in Ottawa, don't count on it. Neither the city nor the union are in favour of the designation, and also anything in Ottawa would have to go through the federal government (which in the past had no interest) rather than the provincial.

So the negotiators from the city and the union will have to figure it out themselves. Well, once they get back to negotiating...


Ben Myers said...

Seems strange that the Feds would be hesitant to make OC Transpo an essential service when it was ONLY the threat of legislating OC Transpo back to work - at the federal level - that ended the strike last time.

Anonymous said...

To avoid another strike, Watson will have to pull the reigns in on Mercier (or, preferably, get rid of him entirely).

Mercier's "vision" for OC Transpo is to salt the earth and pick up the pieces in the aftermath (if there is anything left.

Mercier will continue his campaign to break ATU 279 no matter the cost to taxpayers or transit users.