York Region has provided a glimmer of hope in the seven-week-old transit strike, claiming negotiations could soon start again as workers continue their picketing.
The transit union, however, says it has yet to get a call to come back to the bargaining table.
York Region Council, which last week said it wouldn’t intervene in the matter, said the companies contracted to run buses have said they’re willing to sit down at the negotiating table again with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).
Region officials posted the development on Facebook on Monday evening.
“The Regional Municipality of York has been advised that contracted operators Veolia Transportation, Miller Transit and First Canada are prepared to meet with ATU Local 1587 and Local 113 regarding the resumption of negotiations in the ongoing YRT/Viva strike,” the Facebook posting stated.
“Contracted operators have, or are in the process of, reaching out to union representatives.”
The ATU Local 1587 represents workers from Miller Transit and First Canada, which operate YRT buses. The ATU Local 113 represents workers from Veolia Transportation, which runs VIVA buses.
ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear said he hasn’t heard from the companies.
“We have not been contacted by the contractors yet but we will return to the bargaining table if invited and make every attempt to reach a fair and reasonable settlement,” he said in a statement released Monday night.
“We tried to resume negotiations weeks ago but were rebuffed by the employers, just so the record is clear on that point.”
Kinnear said the contractors informed the union back in November they wouldn’t revise their final offers. The ATU then suggested binding arbitration, but both the contractors and York Region chair and CEO Bill Fisch brushed off that suggestion.
“If we go back to work without a settlement, there will be no incentive for the employers to make a fair and reasonable offer,” Kinnear said. “They had their chance back in October and they blew it. Maybe this time they’ll make a serious offer. We certainly hope so.”
About 600 workers walked off the job on Oct. 24. Wages, benefits and lengths of shifts are key points that need to be negotiated.
“It’s not just wages and benefits,” ATU Local 1587 president Ray Doyle said. “It’s also working conditions. [Workers] have absolutely no sick days in some cases. They have no pension plans—virtually they have no future with these companies.”
He said his members want a “reasonable” settlement and noted their counterparts in other parts of the GTA are 40 per cent ahead when it comes to wages and benefits.
On Friday, Fisch insisted the region would not abandon its practice of contracting bus service and take over the transit system. He claims the move would cost taxpayers too much.
Striking workers set up pickets again Tuesday outside a Veolia garage on Keele Street at Bowes Road. The company is forcing the picketers back, claiming Bowes is a private road.
Pickets were also held at the Richmond Hill Centre terminal and at York Region offices in Richmond Hill and in Newmarket.