Posted July 13, 2014
On Friday, the 210-member Guelph Transit union voted 94 per cent to strike. The city responded stating it would lock them out as of midnight, Sunday.
On Saturday, the transit union workers turned up to attend a press conference by Mayor Karen Farbridge who attempted to explain the city’s position regarding an impending lockout of its employees.
Several times the Mayor was cut-off during her explanation by shouts and insults from the unionists. She finally gave up and the press conference was moved to the council chambers where the media could hear the city’s side of the dispute and ask questions.
This was a tawdry affair in that the mayor deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. She is the mayor and to publicly interrupt and berate her is disrespectful of the office.
This is the same union that ran up record $1 million overtime bills last year, according to the October 31st internal auditor’s report. There was evidence that some members were gaming the system to earn unwarranted overtime.
Excerpt from the Internal Auditor’s report:
“Transit workers call in sick during the week and claim, “sick no pay”. They then work a shift later in the week that was not their scheduled shift and claim overtime even though they have not worked the regular 40 hours in the week.“
These drivers of city buses are paid $26 an hour. That works out, based on a 40-hour week, to $1,090. This does not include compensation benefits including health insurance, paid sick leave, vacation, pension contribution, workman’s compensation, overtime, and premium shift payments.
The city’s final offer included a wage increase of 6 per cent over four years.
Drivers are not required to clean their vehicles at the end of their shift or maintain them. Once back in the garage, they walk away and leave the cleaning and maintenance to other personnel.
In most circles this would be described as a pretty good gig.
So after months of negotiation, including provincial mediation services and 22 meetings, the members voted to strike. Their union representative claimed the issue was not about money but was about but working conditions. The city was accused of bargaining in bad faith by the union.
Yelling at the mayor will not solve the situation. The union tactics of embarrassing Mayor Farbridge in front of television cameras, is a blunder and does nothing to gain support from the public using transit services.
Perhaps a week or so “on the bricks” will bring some sanity back to members and a settlement can be reached.
In the meantime, transit users are inconvenienced and being used by the union as pawns to pressure the city to cave into their union’s demands.
Is the next step de-certification of the transit workers union’s right to represent the workers of this essential service?