TTC workers could strike over safety concerns
Union leaders at the Toronto Transit Commission are not ruling out the possibility of a wildcat strike over safety concerns in the wake of a fatal accident in the subway.
Early Monday morning Antonio Almeida, 38, died when equipment on a work train he was driving made contact with the tunnel wall. The equipment snapped back, falling on Almeida and striking two other workers.
The Amalgamated Transit Union says TTC management is not properly addressing the long-held concerns about safety.
"I'm not suggesting that there were specific concerns with the incident yesterday," Local 113 president Bob Kinnear said Tuesday.
"But there are a number of concerns down in the track structure crews that just don't seem to be taken seriously by the TTC."
In May 2006 TTC workers walked off the job in a wildcat strike that shut down the transit system for much of a day.
At issue in that dispute were safety concerns for employees for fare collectors and bus drivers. Complaints about shift changes for janitors and subway track workers also helped spark the dispute.
After Monday's accident, Kinnear claims he cannot predict what may happen next.
"We've lost a member. I mean, it doesn't get any worse than that and we will do what we absolutely have to do to send a message to not only Gary Webster at the TTC, but the mayor if necessary."
"We are not going to continue to tolerate having our concerns minimized by the TTC," Kinnear said.
He added that the ATU is conducting an investigation into the accident, in addition to investigations by the police, TTC and the Ministry of Labour.
TTC Chair Adam Giambrone "partially" agreed there is a safety problem at the transit system.
"We clearly had an accident (and) we have to figure out what went wrong and we have to make sure we're taking steps to avoid it in the future," Giambrone said.
But he disagreed with the union boss, saying that the transit commission is seriously trying to improve safety for employees.
"I think Bob suggests that we're not doing anything around safety."
"We're doing a lot in terms of bringing outside help (in) saying, 'look we may not be able to do it all at the TTC, we need outside help to do it.' But we do take safety very seriously," Giambrone said.
In the meantime, union members are taking a collection for Almeida's family.
Victim a hard worker, caring family man
TTC officials described Antonio Almeida as a dedicated worker who was recognized with an award of excellence after just three years on the job.
But Almeida was also remembered for being a dedicated husband and father of two young children.
"I'm just really numb, shocked, still," his wife of 15 years, Sonya, told CTV's MairiAnna Bachynsky on Tuesday.
Sonya said when she heard a knock on the door on Monday morning, she thought it was her husband.
"I thought it was him at the door, that he forgot his house key which he always did. He always brought the wrong key," she said.
Sadly, it was the police informing her of the tragedy.
Sonya said Almeida loved playing with his children, eight-year-old Ryan and five-year-old Hailey, around their Schomberg home.
Sonya said Almeida loved his job, and she never worried about his safety.
"I never thought of him in the tunnel because I just thought it was going to be okay, he's taken care of," she said.
Full subway service resumed early Tuesday morning on the north-south Yonge Street line in Toronto after a stretch of tunnel was closed by the accident 24-hours before.
The flatbed train and old subway cars Almeida and his co-workers were riding crashed in the tunnel, blocking the busy subway line.
Investigation of the accident plus cleanup and repair work kept the subway line closed during two busy rush hour periods. Crews worked through the night to clear the wrecked train from the tunnel.
The section of subway where the crash occurred created headaches for commuters all day Monday.
During the morning rush, riders were forced back to street level at York Mills and Davisville stations.
People crowded escalators in subway stations and waited in extremely long queues for buses. The crowds spilled out onto the street, at times blocking traffic on Yonge Street. Police at one point closed the roadway to allow people to catch buses safely.
Other riders were overwhelmed by the chaotic scene and required medical attention.
With reports from CTV's Janice Golding and MairiAnna Bachynsky and files from The Canadian Press