Mediated talks break off in Ottawa transit strike
Published Tuesday, January 27, 2009 6:34PM EST
Informal talks with a federal mediator have broken off between the city and the striking Amalgamated Transit Union, again.
Union vice president Randy Graham told CTV Ottawa late Tuesday afternoon that the city's current offer did not include any significant changes.
Now, the union is pushing for the city to accept its previous proposal that would put the contract dispute to binding arbitration, with the exception of scheduling, which it says would go before an independent 'fact-finder.'
The city, which returned to talks this week with a new mandate from city council, said its latest offer included removing the $2,500 productivity bonus in return for two per cent more over two years. The city says it also offered to set up a temporary committee with members from management and the union to create a scheduling system that would include adequate rest time for drivers between shifts.
Mayor Larry O'Brien says the city has shown it is willing to negotiate and compromise on outstanding issues, adding the only way to end this strike is for both sides to work together.
O'Brien now wants to see the union come back to the table with items they are willing to compromise on.
In the meantime, he says the city will look for more ways to help residents and businesses cope with the strike as it enters its 50th day.
Strike takes its toll on drivers
Meanwhile, a small group of striking bus drivers, who helped shuttle Ottawa's homeless to a local synagogue for a hearty meal on Tuesday, told CTV Ottawa they want to get back to work as soon as possible.
The drivers said they're concerned about the hardships the strike is causing Ottawa residents, particularly the city's most vulnerable.
"It's nice to be able to help out. I know this winter, so far, has been quite cold," said Dave Woodard, who was one of four bus drivers who volunteered their services.
Drivers pay bills with part-time jobs
While bus driver Dan Hellard recognizes the strike is hurting many people, he says the situation is also taking its toll on striking OC Transpo workers. For every week that striking workers spend a minimum of 12 hours walking the picket lines, they get paid $150.
Hellard says that amount doesn't stretch very far and he's already been forced to dip into his RRSPs to pay the bills.
"I've had to draw out RRSPs twice to make bill payments and started delivering pizza -- that doesn't pay much, three nights a week," he said.
"Just about everyone on the line is talking about looking for part-time work because they can't make their payments."
More than 2,300 OC Transpo bus drivers, dispatchers and mechanics walked off the job Dec. 10. They had been working without a contract since April.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee