Striking transit workers urged to vote down contract
Published Monday, January 5, 2009 6:12PM EST
Striking OC Transpo workers attended an information meeting held by the Amalgamated Transit Union Monday where they were urged to vote down the city's latest contract offer.
"We're not in Las Vegas and there's no odds on anything. We believe our members will reject the offer as we've said there was not much of a difference from the first offer," said Randy Graham, vice president of the ATU.
The union's membership will vote on the city's latest contract 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.
"I hope it's going to be rejected," said Al Mayhew, who's been an OC Transpo bus driver for 26 years.
"Stuff they want to take away, we've made concessions for in the past. I hope it goes 'no,' but you don't know. We've been out for a while -- guys are starting to feel the pinch, bills are coming in," he said.
In the meantime, Mayor Larry O'Brien told CTV Ottawa he remains confident the striking workers will vote in favour of the offer that was rejected by the union executive during the last round of contract talks.
"I ask you to come out and take a hard look at the offer . . . take a look at it, draw your own conclusions, but most importantly come out and vote," O'Brien said on Monday.
Meanwhile, many Ottawa residents say the public transit strike continues to make it difficult to commute to work and maintain normal routines.
"Both of the parties that I carpool with were off, and I couldn't find alternate transport. I ended up having to take more time off than I had to," said Kathy Collins.
"I don't get home until 6 to 6:30 p.m., so it doesn't give me much time with my kids," added single mom Sue Hall.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board is also stepping in; asking residents who feel the transit strike is compromising their health and safety to submit their experiences in writing. It could be the first step towards declaring OC Transpo - or part of it - an essential service, which would ultimately force the union back to work.
However, if the union's membership votes to approve the contract on Thursday, a transit strike that has caused traffic gridlock and commuting headaches in the capital for almost four weeks could come to an end without further government intervention.
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, which OC Transpo management wants to take back from drivers.
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 Norman Fetterley and Vanessa Lee