Mayor deserved respect and dignity from rowdy transit unionists

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?

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11 Comments

Filed under Between the Lines

11 responses to “Mayor deserved respect and dignity from rowdy transit unionists

  1. patriciaeales

    the behavior of those transit workers was disgraceful. Shouting down your opponent does not mean you won the argument. If this is what the city faced when dealing with union representatives, no wonder the talks failed. The kept shouting that they wanted respect, but were giving none at all. They kept shouting that it wasn’t about the money, but no one has come forward and said what it is that they want.

    What a disgusting display of ignorance by these people

  2. geo

    If your a City of Guelph bus driver rolling around around town on an empty bus on a Sunday afternoon while collecting a huge wage surely you must realize there is no demand for the service you provide and you are in an extremely rare and fortunate position. I’m sure that if the decision was left to the people subsidizing your job because the GTC does not make money or break even, not even close, you would not be facing a lockout, you would be facing unemployment
    On the other hand I understand your frustration when the people on the other side of the equation include a Mayor who just gave herself a $22,000/yr increase because somebody somewhere else makes that much and a complete ditz of a CAO who is making $250,000/yr while talking in circles and making presentations consisting of graphs full of bubbles.

    • Rose

      The drivers are angry, not over money but how the city is treating the drivers, expecting them to get a run done in 1 to 20 min when in takes 30 min. Did you also know they also had to fight to use a washroom. The drivers were expected to hold it until a break 3 hours later or at the end of their shift, depending on where they’re driving. The bus you go on may be empty and it also depends on the day of the week. you also need to realize students are gone for the summer so buses aren’t going to be full most of the time. Transit drivers also put up with a lot of angry customers being rude, spitting on them and sometimes violence. The main reason why drivers were being rude (which doesn’t excuse the behavior) The Mayor didn’t even read the contract. The drivers were frustrated because everything the mayor was talking about actually had nothing to do with the contract. she had no idea what she was talking about.
      One last part… City council knew about this possible lockout months ago. It was made public about the lockout before the votes were even tallied.
      Think about that for a bit….

      Sincerely

      Tired of all the bullshit.

    • Rose: It’s always important to air both sides of the story. I believe this transit system is a sick puppy. It needs an independent panel of experts and citizens to review all aspects of the operation. Asking council and administration to do this is an exercise in futility as they’ve had eight years to fix the problems without success. For its part, the transit union leadership has not been helpful and the result is obvious. Perhaps some good may come out of all this but those folks dependent on the service are the real victims.

  3. Fred

    The buses are empty even during the week days.

    What a joke.

    • Sean

      Fred: Summer is the lowest ridership on any transit system in a city like ours. university students make 50-60% of the ridership. Think about that for a minute…

  4. Ruby

    Public sector union members acting like thugs and goons????

    Please say it ain’t so!

  5. geo

    The lockout was averted because neither side wants the public to realize we don’t need half these buses.

  6. Mary Heyens

    Geo, I agree with both of your comments. Yes Gerry, we need an independent panel of experts and citizens to review all aspects of the Transit operation. It is time to contract out the Transit, Garbage and Core Services. What a waste of Guelph tax dollars.

  7. Boomer

    just vote.

  8. laura

    I was not at the meeting so I can’t comment on anyone’s behaviour. I do know that Mayor Farbridge tends to over react.
    I fully support public transit but I am not in favour of all the route changes that have been made that have inconvenienced so many riders who are dependent on the bus to get to work, grocery shop, medical appointments etc. The transit service is a public service that needs to be supported even if does not make a profit. Public services were developed to benefit the public. These services do not always, nor can they be expected to generate a profit because as you raise the fares to generate a profit you will also make the service unaffordable for those people who really need the bus.
    I can understand why the bus drivers are angry when the city does not provide them with a promised washroom and a lunch room. As a student and as someone with a medical condition I rode Guelph transit for years. I found most drivers to be very helpful and courteous. It was the riders who were rude.

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