Transit strike continues to cause havoc as talks continue
Published Monday, December 22, 2008 5:58PM EST
The City of Ottawa and the Amalgamated Transit Union are sitting down for the third day in a row as the two sides work to hammer out a deal that would put an end to a public transit strike in the capital.
A media blackout remains in effect as negotiators work with a federal mediator to help bridge the gap on the key issue of bus driver scheduling.
But while OC Transpo workers walked the picket lines in chilly temperatures on the 13th day of the transit strike, many Ottawa residents who rely on public transit are still looking for ways to ease the burden of life without buses.
Local business takes a hit
Local businesses say the transit strike combined with a recent winter wallop has resulted in a 20 to 30 per cent decrease in traffic.
"You've got one arm tied behind your back because of the weather; the second arm is tied behind my back because of the transit strike. Those two key things are really affecting us," said Greg Best, who works with the Glebe and Byward Market BIA.
He added small businesses are doing what they can to draw customers to their stores, but they don't have the money to compete with promotions at the city's major shopping malls.
"We're doing what we can, but clearly we don't have the budgets," Best told CTV Ottawa.
Mall offers promotion
One such promotion at Bayshore Shopping Centre encourages shoppers to use Blue Line, Capital or DJ's taxis to get to and from the mall during the Christmas and Boxing Day rush.
Shoppers can take advantage of the promotion by showing their taxi receipt to the mall's customer service representatives in return for store coupons. Shoppers can also have their presents wrapped for free and get a complimentary photo taken with Santa. For the ride home, shoppers get a $5 voucher to go towards their taxi fare.
Unemployed forced to turn down jobs
Outside the malls, the strike is also causing havoc for people on the lookout for jobs.
"I actually got offered a job, it was down on Industrial and I can't go there right now because the buses aren't running," job seeker Mayeen Hoque told CTV Ottawa on Monday.
The 23-year-old says he's turned down about a dozen jobs because he doesn't have adequate transportation. Still, he says his New Year's resolution is to find a job and move out of his parents' home.
"It's really frustrating because it's really hard first of all to find jobs and go to different places," Hoque said.
Lack of transportation leads to job losses
The situation is also hurting those who have jobs but have no way to get around town.
"We have six training consultants here, and every training consultant has got stories about young people who've lost their jobs due to the strike," said Heather Morrison of St. Lawrence College Job Connect.
Para Transpo sees increase in demand
Meanwhile, Para Transpo workers say their operations have increased 10 per cent since OC Transpo stopped driving seniors around town.
"It's nice to help people. It's a shame that they can't get to do shopping and stuff. But that's the way it is on a strike, isn't it?" one Para Transpo driver told CTV Ottawa.
Is an end near?
If a deal comes, OC Transpo buses likely won't return to the roads until late in the week. There would be limited service for the first two days before the system is fully operational, according to the city. Union members would also have to ratify the agreement before drivers and mechanics return to work.
The transit strike in the capital is entering its second week after more than 2,100 OC Transpo bus drivers, dispatchers and maintenance staff walked off the job Dec. 10.
As the transit strike approaches its second week -- we want to hear from you. What advice would you give the two sides to put an end to the labour dispute?
With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua