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Archive for December 12th, 2008

The OC Transpo strikers targetting university students

December 12, 2008 @ 12:59 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, Transit strike

By now you’ve probably heard a lot about the strike by OC Transpo drivers. It’s had a lot of coverage in the media and many people have written about it in their blogs. (I walk to work, or I’d have written about the strike sooner.) Its result has been to significantly increase the number of cars on the road in a city that already has too many cars on the road. Some people are carpooling, which is good for the environment, but work schedules are suffering. And even with carpools, the average commute is still longer than what it was before the strike started. Some of my co-workers are spending the better part of two or three hours each day travelling to and from work.

City parking regulations are being eased up for non-metered parking so that people don’t have to run out and move their cars every hour or two and some additional parking lots have been opened by the city. Picketers are hampering access to some of the park-and-ride lots, which is only further reducing any chance of sympathy the drivers might have had.

About ten years ago they city gave the drivers the right to determine their own schedules. This means that drivers with lots of seniority get the choice shifts at the expense of the others. As well, it is contributing to something like $8 million a year in overtime. Because of certain guarantees in their contracts drivers can arrange their shifts such that they end up being paid more hours than they actually worked. The city has caught on to this and wants to retake control of the scheduling in an effort to reign in the costs. In return for this change, the city is willing to give each driver a $2000 bonus because the overall operating costs will be lower.  (You can see the city’s final offer at the City of Ottawa website.)

The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents the drivers and other OC Transpo staff, has been vocal about their downtrodden drivers.  The annual increases being offered are higher than I’m getting as a civil servant, so I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for them. At least they’re keeping up with inflation. But the thing that really steams me comes from this quote:

“Most of the bus companies would never ever do anything that would be scabbing our members,” said Randy Graham international vice-president for the Amalgamated Transit Union Wednesday afternoon. “We’ll have to deal with it if it does occur. We have to do the things that we legally can do. And we will do it.”

You might think that this quote is referring to the City of Ottawa hiring scabs to drive buses while the union members are standing in the cold and you’d be wrong. Randy Graham is referring to the privately-operated shuttles the universities are operating to help their students get to their exams.

Yes, the Amalgamated Transit Union is targetting university students.

Classy, eh?

I’m sorry, but this single act is the reason why I will not respect an Amalgamated Transit Union strike line ever again. The universities have every right to run their own shuttles and the ATU has no right to block them.

Larry O’Brien is holding a press conference at 1:30pm today to talk about the strike. It’ll be interesting to hear what he has to say. Hopefully he’ll make it clear to the union that the drivers are welcome to stand in the cold for a long time.  Every week they’re on strike the city is saving a huge amount of money, so if they stay out long enough this might not be a bad thing.