Posted July 25, 2014
The union workers never called a strike. The city locked them out.
Why? Because after more than a year of 22 bargaining meetings, provincial mediation sessions, a modified “final offer” that the union leadership accepted, the workers said no, again.
The city had no choice but to bring the matter to a head and lock them out, for the second time in seven days.
With 50 per cent of the Guelph Transit income coming from the mandatory bus pass payment extracted by the University from each of the 22,000 plus students who arrive starting September 2, there will be a phone call.
It’s a call that the Mayor cannot refuse. The question is, when does it arrive? Will the 205 Transit workers be the boys of summer tramping up and down their picket lines with no pay from the city? There will be strike pay from their union, but that won’t pay for the gas to show up for picket duty.
The longer they are off the job, the weaker their opposition becomes, and it would appear, any kind of settlement.
Their saving grace will come with that phone call to the mayor from the university.
The rank and file appear to have lost faith in their leadership and with local elections coming up next month, it is a safe bet there will be new faces taking over.
Each semester every student is charged $94 for a bus pass, whether they use it or not. So, Guelph Transit gets a deposit of some $2,068,000 at the beginning of each semester through September to April.
That comes in at $4,136,000 for the two main semesters. That is not chump change and represents almost half of the total revenue received by Guelph Transit.
The current base cost of wages for the transit union tops $10,660,000.That does not include benefits, including overtime, premium shifts, sick leave, medical and life insurance, worker’s compensation in case of injury. All those benefits increase the city’s costs of operating the transit system.
There will be a phone call or many of them. Each will put pressure on the Mayor to settle this dispute before students start arriving in late August. Remember all those returning to university have already paid for their bus pass through their fees.
The question remaining is how long will the Amalgamated Transit Union hold out and not provide service?
Union president Andrew Cleary claims the work stoppage will not end until November. He must have a lot of confidence that his members will go along with that prediction as they will be without a paycheck for more than three months.
It will end with a phone call even though the return of the students is five weeks away. Unfortunately, there is an element in the union ranks that is determined to deny any compromise.
Perhaps this is a harbinger of privatizing the system, who knows? If you ask those folks who are dependent on the service, they’d agree that the service must be dependable and timely.
Count on that university call soon ringing in Mayor Farbridge’s office, if it hasn’t happened already.