With a possible transit strike looming, the City of Winnipeg has rejected a counter-proposal from the Amalgamated Transit Union.

The contract offer ATU pitched last Friday was rejected, as it leaves both sides at odds by about $68 million in its offers, the city said in a Thursday news release.

The city now wants the union to come back with another proposal that’s “not just another repackaging of their previous proposals,” it said.

City breaks down cost of three asks

The city says it’s broken down the cost of three of ATU’s asks, including a demand for a general wage increase for all members.

To that, the city suggested an annual two per cent increase for four years at a cost of about $12.8 million.

The ATU counter offer came at a cost of $18.2 million in the same time period, meaning the two sides are $5 million dollars away from an agreement.

The transit union also asked for a $10 per hour increase for all ATU mechanics, a demand the city said would equate to a near 29 per cent increase, costing $9.6 million.

Another point of tension is the ATU’s request for a five-minute mandatory recovery time at the end of each trip for bus drivers.

“The simple addition of 5 minutes to the end of each bus route, would instantly see a decline in bus service because it would take 5 minutes longer for each bus to do their run, and this would have a compounding effect over the course of the day,” the city said.

To maintain the current level of service and meet the ATU’s demand, the city said it would need to hire 41 new bus drivers, six maintenances/supervisors, and add about 32 new buses to its fleet. That would cost the city approximately $10.6 million annually, it said.

The city said it fully expects the ATU to strike in the fall.

ATU responds to rejected offer

In a written response, ATU president Aleem Chaudhary said he’s “dumfounded” by the city’s latest move.

“The City has made it clear with their latest aggression that they would rather threaten workers and riders than fix the mess at Winnipeg Transit and work in good faith, sit down with the ATU, and solve these issues,” said Chaudhary.

“We are dumbfounded that the City would rather vilify their own employees rather than improve a basic service that serves so many in Winnipeg.”

Chaudhary criticized the city for using “increasingly inflated and unsourced numbers,” citing a 25 cent fare hike, which the city said would avoid 120 layoffs and 59 route cuts but ended with a $13.6 million surplus, Chaudhary said.

The union president appealed to members of city council—specifically Sherri Rollins, Cindy Gilroy, Brian Mayes, John Orlikow and Matt Allard—to publicly take a position on the city’s bargaining approach.

“Winnipeggers deserve to know if their representatives stand with the workers and citizens of this City,” he said.

Councillor criticises city’s negotiation tactics

Winnipeg city councillor Brian Mayes spoke out Thursday, criticising the city for its negotiation tactics.

Mayes took issue with the final line of a statement made by the City of Winnipeg, which read: “We fully expect ATU to initiate strike action in the fall when it is most inconvenient to Transit passengers."

Mayes referred to this move by the city as ‘juvenile tactics.’

“I think it’s unnecessary, inflammatory, juvenile, I think any of the above," said Mayes.

“I actually think our eight per cent wage offer is fare, but why we are taking this confrontational line at the end, I don’t know.”

Mayes said in his 30 years dealing with labour relations he has never seen anything like this.

He said he’d like to see both sides meet in private to negotiate a deal, rather than negotiate through the media.

-With files from CTV's Jeremie Charron