Bob Kinnear, the president of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), has assured the bus and subway riders of Toronto that his union will not withhold services during the upcoming contract negotiations.
The current agreement expires on March 31 and, one way or the other, bargaining will end in a negotiated settlement or binding arbitration.
One of Mayor Rob Ford’s election promises was that he would have the province declare the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) an essential service. A resolution to that effect was passed by council and the province has signaled its consent.
However, as Kinnear points out, there is very little time to pass the legislation before March 31. The Legislature is not currently sitting (it will return on February 22). March break falls between the resumption of the Legislature and the expiry date. A bill would have to be passed while the government continues to pursue its own legislative agenda in an election year.
Kinnear also objects to the way in which the proposal has been moved forward. “I remind you that City Council passed the essential services resolution without any public consultation and with limited debate.” He argues that this should not happen again at the provincial level. The period left to the Legislature “does not leave a lot of time to give unemotional and thoughtful consideration to a law that may well raise significant issues with respect to our members’ fundamental rights under the Charter …”
He also poses the question of whether this proposed legislation would apply only to the TTC or to a wider class of large municipal transit systems, none of whom have been part of the debate.
And Kinnear brings in the one player that has been forgotten so far in the debate. The management of the TTC, he states, “is opposed to such a law and for basically the same reasons as the union. It is pretty rare that the union and management are in accord, so our agreement on this issue is significant.”
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