City councillors call on mayor to deescalate tensions, avoid transit strike
Keila Depape, CTV News Winnipeg
Published Thursday, August 15, 2019 11:45AM CST
Last Updated Thursday, August 15, 2019 2:09PM CST
Two Winnipeg city councillors are calling on the mayor to diffuse escalating tensions with the transit union.
In a news release Thursday, Coun. Ross Eadie and Coun. Jason Schreyer both said they want the mayor to help settle a potential transit strike.
“Threatening our transit union bus drivers is going to backfire—it usually does,” Eadie said.
Members of ATU Local 1505 Winnipeg are in the midst of voting on the city’s latest contract offer, after rejecting several others since the previous collective agreement expired in January.
The city’s chief corporate services officer Michael Jack recently pushed back by announcing drivers will no longer be able to trade shifts or vacation time, practices that were covered by provisions in the now-expired agreement.
Jack also said drivers will also be assigned routes, as opposed to choosing based on seniority.
The two councillors say drivers are more concerned about bus routes rather than wages, saying current schedules don’t allow for breaks or washroom use.
“You need to be able to take care of yourself throughout your 8 hour shift, and that’s what we’re talking about here,” said Schreyer.
“That should not be denied for the good people that run our transit system, the bus drivers and everybody else so that our city can function.”
The city will learn Friday whether the union will accept its contract offer.
A statement to CTV News Winnipeg on behalf of Mayor Brian Bowman, from his office, said, “It is incumbent on all elected officials, together with the advice of the Integrity Commissioner, to ensure their actions adhere to Council’s Code of Conduct, and that they not put themselves in situations in which they have a real or apparent conflict of interest at any time while performing their duties of office.”
The statement also said the transit union has been in a legal strike position since May 31, and, “The overtime ban implemented by the ATU in June 2019 met the definition of a strike under The Labour Relations Act. This strike by the ATU officially terminated the previous collective agreement.”
It then reiterated that the city will reinstate terms of the collective agreement if the ATU accepts the city’s final offer by Saturday.
“Mayor Bowman feels the City of Winnipeg has presented a fair and reasonable final offer worthy of careful consideration, and is encouraged by the decision of ATU’s executive to finally allow members an opportunity for input,” the statement said.