City council provides "new mandate" for transit negotiators
City council has provided a new mandate for staff to negotiate an agreement with striking OC Transpo workers, Mayor Larry O'Brien said Saturday following a four-hour meeting at City Hall.
Thanks to a motion passed at the closed-door session, any agreement will require a work schedule component that addresses safety concerns, namely driver rest between shifts. But neither O'Brien nor city spokesman Michael Fitzpatrick would elaborate on what else the "new mandate" included.
Negotiators were trying to contact union officials immediately on Saturday night, according to the city.
The council meeting was originally scheduled for Monday, but informal negotiations between the city, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and a federal mediator ended Friday afternoon with no compromise in sight for the 46-day-old OC Transpo strike.
That left many councillors anxious to hear directly from city management -- albeit behind closed doors -- about what happened at the bargaining table - and what the next steps might be.
"I support the fact that we shouldn't bargain in the media, and I think everyone understands that it's not appropriate to do that," Councillor Maria McRae said before the meeting.
"But I certainly don't support withholding information from our residents. I want to state strongly that I want to see an end to this strike. It's gone on long enough."
O'Brien told councillors in a Friday memo that the union has put additional demands on the table, but did not offer specifics to the public.
"The federal mediator has suggested that since the parties continue to be so far apart on their demands there is no benefit in continuing mediated talks at this time, but they are willing to work with both parties in the future to achieve a settlement," O'Brien wrote.
ATU Local 279 President Andr� Cornellier countered that the union has not offered any different proposal from its previous offer of binding arbitration aside from scheduling.
"Let us be clear. No new proposals were tabled by the union today," Cornellier said in a Friday statement.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty urged both sides to "come to (their) senses" and resume talks on Friday.
"Allow cooler heads to prevail, let's get this thing behind us, let's get the buses working again," McGuinty said.
Meanwhile, many angry transit users are using the Internet to organize a Monday protest on Parliament Hill.
David Jeanes, the president of Transport 2000, said the community as a whole shouldn't pay the price of the ongoing dispute.
"There should have been a much earlier approach to try and get some serious mediation, the two sides, for whatever reasons, staying away from the barganing table are holding the public to ransom," Jeanes said Saturday.
With reports from CTV Ottawa's Maggie Padlewska and Kristy Kirkup