Although Ottawa city council met to discuss a 'plan b' in the event the transit union votes down the city's latest contract offer, the mayor maintains the offer is a fair deal that has public support.

"Council voted unanimously to reconfirm its position that is put in front of ATU 279. We hope the union on their vote on Thursday takes this opportunity to make this a very short strike," said Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien.

A recent Harris-Decima survey commissioned by the City of Ottawa at a cost of $30,000 suggests 89 per cent of Ottawa residents think the city's latest contract offer to the Amalgamated Transit Union is sufficient.

"The more people hear about the specifics of the proposal the city has put forth, the deeper the support for the city's position has become, even if the strike would go on longer," said Jeff Walker, senior vice president of Harris-Decima.

Union to vote Thursday

The union's membership will vote on the city's latest offer Thursday after federal Labour Minister Rona Ambrose ordered the union to hold a vote on the issue by Friday. Voting is scheduled to take place between 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. Results are expected late that evening.

If the strike does continue, the city will consider opening up the Transitway to traffic, implementing more free parking and reviewing parking rates.

If the union's membership votes to approve the contract, a transit strike that has caused commuter headaches in the capital for 28 days could come to an end.

Essential service?

The Canada Industrial Relations Board is also taking action, in what is possibly the first step towards declaring OC Transpo an essential service. The board is asking residents who think the transit strike is compromising their health and safety to submit their experiences in writing by 5 p.m. Friday.

Still, federal Transport Minister John Baird told reporters ordering drivers back to work would be premature.

"Any legislation that would go through Parliament would require unanimous consent of every single MP and every single Senator to move quickly -- something that is not achieved easily for this type of action. Let's just take this one step at a time," Baird said on Tuesday.

Even if the strike is settled soon, all buses will stay parked for five to six days while mechanics service the vehicles.

The main sticking point of the dispute remains control over bus driver scheduling. OC Transpo wants more control over the shifting of drivers. The union wants to keep the current system that rewards seniority.

About 2,300 OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers and mechanics walked off the job Dec. 10 after working without a contract since April.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee