TTC union vows not to strike during contract talks
In a bid to derail essential services legislation, the head of the TTC workers' union says his workers promise not to strike if upcoming contract negotiations are going nowhere.
"If we are unable to reach a voluntary agreement with the TTC we agree in advance to submit our unresolved issues to binding arbitration," Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president Bob Kinnear told reporters at a press conference Thursday morning.
The leadership of all three unions whose contracts with the TTC begin expiring at the end of March have agreed to the proposal, Kinnear said.
"In other words, we will act as if an essential service law was already in effect. This will effectively give the mayor what he wants, but will also allow for more consultation than he has been so far willing to give," he added.
The more than million people who rely on TTC services for transportation every day can rest assured, Kinnear said.
"There is no threat of a TTC strike or service disruption this year."
Last month, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford asked the government of Premier Dalton McGuinty to introduce the legislation after Toronto City Council voted 28-17 in favour of outlawing future strikes by the service.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said that open dialogue is the best way to deal with any potential labour discussions.
"We want to have continuity in service for our riders," said Stintz.
"If we can achieve this objective by sitting down with the union and working something out voluntarily, then it's in our respective interests to do so."
Still, Stintz said that the city will push for the essential service legislation.
Queen's Park has since signalled it is moving forward with the legislative process that would, among its many consequences, strip transit workers of their right to legally strike.
Stopping short of calling for the province to put the brakes on the process, Kinnear told reporters on Thursday he hopes his union's commitment will encourage lawmakers to submit the law to full debate and public consultation instead.
"The Liberal government can use its majority at any time, so there's no need to short-circuit the tried-and-true process of carefully considered legislation in a parliamentary democracy," Kinnear said.
When TTC workers last walked off the job in 2008, the disruption cost the city an estimated $50 million a day. After just two days, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty brought the strike to an end with back-to-work legislation.
At the time, McGuinty said he would not move to declare the TTC an essential service unless he was asked by then-Mayor David Miller. Miller remained opposed to the idea however.
If MPPs tackle the issue when they return to the legislature on Feb. 22, the legislation could be enacted before the first of three current TTC contracts expires at the end of March.
In light of his announcement, Kinnear says he now hopes "we can all calm down and get on with the important business of working cooperatively to restore the TTC to the world class transit system it once was and can be again," rather than rushing an essential service bill through the legislature.
In the past, Kinnear has warned such legislation would not only mean an end to his workers' right of negotiating wages, benefits and contract language, but would wind up costing taxpayers more.
Researchers have claimed that labour disputes sent directly to third-party arbitration wind up with workers getting bigger pay hikes as compensation for their inability to strike.