As you probably know by now, Local 279 of the Amalgamated Transit Union has voted to retain the right to strike rather than have future labour disputes resolved by binding arbitration. This is a bit surprising because back at the end of January the very same local agreed to resolve the labour dispute at the time by binding arbitration, which is why I removed the little anti-ATU logo that had appeared in the header of my blog.
I was quite surprised by this because I would have thought the union membership would have followed the advice of their president, Andre Cornellier, whose advice they followed when they went on strike in the first place.
Does this mean they don’t trust him anymore?
His advice was for the members to vote to accept automatic binding arbitration should negotiations stall in the future. The union executive appear to be quite annoyed by the results of the vote. A story in the Ottawa Citizen included this quote:
Jim Haddad, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 secretary-treasurer, said he was very disappointed.
“They’re afraid of what the arbitrator will decide. It’s the unknown,” he said.
“Hopefully, the next time the two sides are at the table they will negotiate and get a contract.”
It almost sounds like Haddad is not going to be around next time negotiations take place. I wonder if the ATU executive is considering treating this vote as a vote of non-confidence by their membership.
If the membership doesn’t trust their executive anymore then perhaps we’ll see a new union boss at the bargaining table when their contract comes up for renewal. But if they’re thinking that they can pull the same kind of stuff as last time, they should probably think again.
Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien said the city and the union have negotiated collective agreements in the past without resorting to a strike or lockout, and he said he was confident future differences can be resolved through negotiation.
“There is no change to the city’s position; we remain committed to the principles of collective bargaining and will continue to work together to find solutions that are in the best interests of management, ATU members, transit riders and the taxpayers of the City of Ottawa,” O’Brien said in a release issued after the union vote was announced. (CBC story)
Because OC Transpo is federally-regulated, it would take an act of Parliament to legislate them back to work in a future strike, something that almost happened in the last strike when the Minister of Transport called for an emergency debate to do just that. At the eleventh hour, the union agreed to go to binding arbitration, thus avoiding being legislated back to work. My guess is that next time the federal government won’t wait as long before taking action.
See what other people I know have written about this: