Strike or lockout edges closer as Guelph Transit contract talks continue
As contract negotiations between the City of Guelph and the union representing Guelph Transit drivers, the possibility of a strike or lockout is closer than ever.
The bus drivers’ latest contract with the contract expired in July 2013.
Since then, talks between the two sides have been intermittent.
A negotiation session was held Friday with a conciliator appointed by the province in attendance – but both groups left the meeting feeling anything but conciliatory.
“It looks like the mayor and council are prepared to shut the transit system down,” Andrew Cleary, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189, told CTV News following the vote.
Disappointed that the union’s full negotiating team wasn’t present at the beginning of the meeting, the city filed for a no board report.
If approved, that would give the city and the union 16 days to hammer out a deal – a period after which a strike or lockout could legally occur.
Speaking from a meeting of Ontario’s urban mayors in Brampton, Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge said she was optimistic a deal could be reached.
“It’s a very important service. A lot of people would be impacted if we have a strike or a shutout and the service isn’t there for people who need it,” she said.
One of those people is Bruce Benson.
A father and worker in the automotive industry, he estimates that his family spends as much as $300 per month moving around town by bus.
“If it’s shut down, we’re going to have to pay more money for cabs. We’ve already paid for the bus passes,” he said Friday.
“If I rode a cab to work every day, it would cost me almost $30.”
Further meetings are scheduled before a strike or lockout can take place.
Cleary says working conditions are one of the biggest issues raised in contract talks thus far.
Last year, the city and union found themselves at loggerheads after an overtime audit found thattransit drivers were paid approximately $1 million in overtime costs.
The city argued that bus drivers were abusing the overtime system, while the drivers countered that a lack of part-time drivers gave the transit agency no choice to fill empty shifts other than to bring in full-time drivers on overtime.