GO Transit bus drivers, station attendants, safety officers and maintenance workers could walk off the job as of the end of the month.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1587, which represents 2,200 GO workers, said if a deal is not reached its members will be on strike at 12:01 a.m. on October 31.
“We have had several meetings with the company … but at every single one of those meetings, Metrolinx’s bargaining team showed up empty-handed, without a single offer addressing our most important issue on the table, which is protection against contracting out,” ATU Local 1587 president Rob Cormier said in a release on Wednesday.
In a statement to CityNews, Metrolinx said a strike is “unnecessary and avoidable,” adding that negotiations are ongoing with the union.
“We will remain at the table to reach an agreement that includes the 67 improvements we have already agreed to,” the provincial regional transit agency said.
Metrolinx also said it has a plan in place to ensure services are not disrupted for GO riders and that a potential strike would not impact train service.
ATU president John Di Nino told CityNews a townhall meeting was held with members late Tuesday night, where a decision was made to set a strike date.
“We’ve been at the bargaining table since April of this year with absolutely no gains for our members. Not only are we capped at one per cent in wage increases and benefit increases under Bill 124, we are being threatened by the CEO at Metrolinx of contracting out of our work,” Di Nino said.
Cormier said contracting protections proposed by the union are standard in other transit agencies in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, where their collective agreements either restrict it altogether or limit it to certain scenarios.
“In a previous bargaining session, Metrolinx’s negotiations team told us to our faces that they would not agree to end contracting out because they ‘needed to make more money,'” Cormier said.
Di Nino also said a potential strike could affect TTC and transit in Mississauga and Hamilton since members will not cross picket lines.
The ATU president said a bargaining date has been scheduled for Thursday morning, but he is not optimistic. The major sticking points for the union and its members are job security and wages.
“Our workers have been on the frontline every day through the pandemic,” Di Nino said.
“We do not expect a resolution at the table tomorrow unless Metrolinx is prepared to come to the table with firm and very strict contracting out language that we can agree to.”
Earlier this month, Cormier said said they met with Metrolinx officials on October 3 but no progress had been made. At the time, the union said it had begun planning for a strike amid stalled labour negotiations with Metrolinx.
As CityNews reported in mid-September, a “no-board” report was issued by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, clearing the way for either a legal strike by the union or a lockout by the Ontario government as of October 1.
During an August vote, ATU Local 1587 members voted 93 per cent in favour of going on strike if a deal couldn’t be reached.
The union said negotiations with Metrolinx began in April and that its members have been working without a contract since June 1.
With files from Nick Westoll of CityNews