York Region Transit (YRT) workers took to the picket lines Oct. 24, leaving thousands of GTA commuters scrambling to find alternative ways to work.
GO Transit workers, however, reached a tentative agreement with their employer, Metrolinx, averting an Oct. 24 strike. Details of the agreement will not be released until it’s ratified by the workers.
The YRT strike affects bus routes operated by companies contracted to supply service to Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan. A number of routes are also affected in northern York Region.
About 340 employees represented by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1587 are affected by the walkout, along with 220 drivers represent by ATU Local 113.
"Our members here are making seven dollars an hour less than transit workers doing essentially the same jobs in surrounding communities,” says ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear. “This is a massive wage gap that the company refuses to even recognize, let alone begin to address."
Kinnear points out that, as of Jan. 1, 2012, YRT bus fare is scheduled to increase to $3.50, an eight per cent increase from the existing $3.25. He also says that the taxpayer transit subsidy in York Region is about four dollars per ride, compared with about 90¢ in Toronto.
"These companies are shipping millions in taxpayer-funded profits out of the country. It makes no economic sense for the residents of York Region, but that's privatization for you," Kinnear says.
The striking YRT workers voted 100 per cent against the offers from management companies First Student Transit and Miller last week.
“We regret the inconvenience this causes for York Region transit users and we urge them to contact their councillors and mayors," says ATU Local 1587 president Ray Doyle. "These private companies are raking in profits by the millions from taxpayers and passengers, while paying their employees seven dollars an hour less than transit workers doing the same jobs in adjoining cities."
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