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Province makes TTC essential service, strikes now banned

The provincial government stripped TTC workers of their right to strike Wednesday, prompting Toronto transit union boss Bob Kinnear to call Premier Dalton McGuinty a “lapdog for a union-hating right wing mayor.”

The essential service bill, called The Toronto Transit Commission Labour Disputes Resolution Act, passed on its third reading at Queen’s Park with a vote of 69-9. Under the new law, there will be binding arbitration by a third party when collective bargaining efforts run off the rails. There must also be a review of the legislation in five years.

“This legislation recognizes the vital importance of the TTC to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the transit system to go to work, school, medical appointments, and shop,” Ontario Labour Minister Charles Sousa said.

The Liberals were aiming to pass the legislation before the first round of contracts with transit workers expires Thursday.

Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents TTC workers, claims Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty pushed for the essential service designation in an effort to win votes in Toronto. Mayor Rob Ford had threatened to sic “Ford Nation” on the provincial Liberals if they didn’t provide more funding for the city.

“McGuinty is being a lapdog for a union-hating right wing mayor because he is afraid of Ford’s political clout, not because he cares about transit in Toronto.

“It is a sad day for democracy when a government takes away some people’s rights in order to win the votes of other people,” Kinnear said in a statement released after the vote.

Kinnear told CityNews a “work-to-rule” campaign could be used by the union to back up its position at the bargaining table. The union has also informed TTC management it won’t tolerate harassment of workers now that the essential service legislation has been passed.

“The McGuinty government is hugely hypocritical on this. If they really believed the TTC was an essential service, they would properly fund it. This bill will not put one bus on the road, not even the ones Mayor Ford took off the road in the latest round of TTC service cutbacks. People who think this is going to improve TTC service are going to be very disappointed,” Kinnear said. 

Ford praised the decision at City Hall on Wednesday.

“It’s great. People want to have their transit there every day, people depend on it every day, and we can’t have them going out on strike,” Ford told reporters.

NDP MPP Peter Kormos described the new law as a “full-frontal attack” on working women and men in the province and compared the move to Republican efforts in the United States to strip workers of their collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.

“I would be worried about the increased cost that will come as a result of arbitrated settlements, as well as what that implies for service and for fares,” NDP leader Andrea Horvath added.