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Region, GRT union reach tentative deal, but buses will stay parked until it's ratified
The Region of Waterloo has come to a tentative agreement with the union representing Grand River Transit employees, but it's not time to celebrate yet for dispirited commuters.
The tentative agreement was announced at 7:02 p.m., with the union's ratification vote scheduled for Jan. 30. Regional council will then need to ratify the deal, but there's no timeline set.
While this is a big step forward for transit users, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of the strike: a previously-reached tentative deal was voted down on Jan. 19, which is what led to strike in the first place.
Waterloo Region CAO Mike Murray says that buses will not start service again until both sides have ratified the deal.
That means riders will likely be waiting until the end of the week before service starts again.
"Pending the results of the vote a special meeting of Regional Council will be convened as soon as possible to consider ratification," the region said in a tweet on Tuesday evening.
“We appreciate this has been really inconvenient for a lot of people. We just need a little bit more patience, for the next, I’m going to say couple of days, few days, and we’ll get it going as quickly as we possibly can,” said Murray.
In terms of compensations for riders, the Region is still hoping to reimburse people for services purchased that they weren’t able to use.
“We’re looking at options, there’s a range of options, about how much, and how do we do it, so that’s something we’re looking at and we’ll try go get a decision from Council ASAP, and let people know as quickly as possible, both when transit service starts again, and how we’re going to compensate them for their inconvenience and out of pocket costs,” said Murray.
The union, Unifor Local 4304, represents about 700 GRT employees, including operators, dispatchers, fleet mechanics and service attendants.
Talks had broken off last week and resumed Tuesday morning at around 11 a.m. Murray says that both sides were at the table until just after 6 p.m.
Key among the issues were workplace safety, the union says. In the previous tentative deal, the region had agreed to install safety barriers on all of the buses in the Grand River Transit fleet.
Murray says that, under the terms of the latest tentative agreement, those barriers will start to be installed this year.
“They’ll start to be installed this year for sure. Exactly when this year, I don’t want to speculate,” said Murray.
“On the line, and throughout bargaining, members were united in their call to improve safety and working conditions. That message was clearly heard,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a press release. “I’d like to thank the bargaining committee for their work in achieving this agreement.”
The union says details of the new collective agreement will be released pending ratification.
“Transit workers appreciate the support that they have received from the public during this time,” said Local 4304 Local President Tim Jewell in a press release. “We look forward to settling this dispute in order to return to serving the people of Waterloo Region.”
Tentative agreement reached between Region & UNIFOR 4304. Unifor’s ratification vote will take place on Jan 30. Pending the vote, Council will meet to consider ratification. We appreciate your patience as we work towards getting buses back in service. https://t.co/HcTK37k92k— Region of Waterloo (@RegionWaterloo) January 29, 2020