TTC union leader says essential service bill violates rights

Accuses the province of passing Bill 150 to win Toronto votes
By Zachary Pedersen
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 03/10/2011

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) union leader is accusing the provincial government of taking away his members’ right to strike for political gain. Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, claims that Labour Minister Charles Sousa is speeding Bill 150 through the legislation with minimal public consultation simply because the City of Toronto has asked for it.

“Just because the city asks for something does not oblige the government to respond,” Kinnear said in a statement on Wednesday to the committee studying the issue. “Your stated reasons for taking away our rights are without any factual or principled foundation whatsoever.”

Kinnear says that, while the city was denied $150 million for transit when Mayor Rob Ford took office, it now seems keen on making TTC services an “essential service.” This would see transit employees operate similarly to emergency service workers.

He also takes issue with the idea that a TTC strike could lead to a potential loss of $50 million a day for Toronto, which Sousa first noted when the bill was tabled on Feb. 22, 2011.

“This figure was from a September 2008 City of Toronto report,” he says, pointing out that the study was completed by city staff. “It seems that this $50 million figure was picked out of thin air with no basis in fact.”

The city is hoping to have the legislation passed by the end of the month, which is before the TTC’s current collective agreement expires on March 31, 2011.

“You can take our rights away, but you cannot take our voices away,” Kinnear says. “We will continue to protest this legislation and the anti-worker sentiment it reflects.”

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