Arbitrator upholds Ottawa’s position on transit agreement

Union representative on the panel says that the 2008 strike was avoidable
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 07/27/2011

The City of Ottawa is arguing an arbitrator has given it the power it was looking for during bargaining that led to the 53-day-long Ottawa transit strike in 20082009. Management will now be able to set driver’s schedules.

Arbitrator Brian Keller ruled the scheduling policy in the original draft collective agreement issued last year by the city is valid. In the draft, the city created a scheduling system for the transit system, OC Transpo, that is consistent with the majority of North America’s municipal transit sector.

However, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279  president Garry Queale is also claiming victory, alleging the new rules will limit the length of shifts.

The July 22 interest arbitration ruling on the now expired 2008–2011 collective agreement opens the door for talks on a new contract for members of the ATU.

“I’m pleased that this final decision puts the dispute behind us and concludes a long and difficult round of negotiations,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson in a press release. “The city is determined to work with the ATU to address the concerns of the union and its membership.”

The arbitration board was made up of a chair and one nominee each from the city and the union. The union’s nominee, labour lawyer Joe Herbert, says the contract is much like the offer the union made during the 2008 contract negotiations and the strike could likely have been avoided.

The panel has been working on the issue since the end of the strike in late January 2009.

In negotiations, Ottawa wanted more control over work scheduling so it could assemble tighter work days for drivers. The city was hoping that by introducing a new system, OC Transpo could save $4 million a year. Formerly, drivers were able to assemble their own daily schedules rather than bidding on ones made up by management.

City staff will contact the ATU this week to find resolutions to remaining issues of concern.

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