Transit union votes to end strike, accept arbitration
Ottawa's transit strike officially ended late Saturday afternoon after drivers, dispatchers, and mechanics gave overwhelming support to a plan for binding arbitration between their union and the city.
OC Transpo mechanics were expected to begin work on Saturday night to prepare buses for a return to the road on Feb. 9 under a limited schedule.
All issues - including the contentious scheduling question - will be unconditionally sent to a federal arbitrator. The executive board of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 unanimously recommended that members accept the proposal while voting at Lansdowne Park.
"The parties were so far apart still on some key issues that this was the only way that it could end the strike," said Randy Graham, the union's vice-president.
"Our issues have some backbone to them, and we remain as confident as we can be that we will get a fair shake."
The union has offered to keep garages open 24/7 until service resumes, Graham added.
Ottawa city council voted 17-0 Friday to ratify the agreement.
Suburban riders can expect major delays
It will take 10 weeks for all regular routes to return to full service and express routes won't be up and running until at least April.
The O-Train, which is serviced by Bombardier instead of OC Transpo mechanics, will be up and running on Monday.
The city says about half the fleet of 1,000 buses will be ready to roll on the first day of service. The rest of the buses will be delayed due to necessary repairs and recertification.
The buses that are operational will also run at a reduced schedule. Only a few selected routes will be in service during the weekday rush hours. December bus passes will be honoured throughout February, and service will be free on weekends in February.
Those who depend on express routes, however, will not see full bus service in their neighbourhoods for months. While the city says express buses will be gradually added to the fleet, full rush-hour service may not return for 14 weeks.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Jonathan Rotondo