'Our membership is fed up': Union for Winnipeg Transit drivers rejects city's latest contract offer
In an overwhelming no vote, transit operators have rejected the City of Winnipeg’s latest and final contract offer as concerns over the potential of a work disruption linger.
According to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, 92.56 per cent of its members voted no.
In rejecting the contract, the ATU made the city a counter offer to get back to the bargaining table and avert any service disruptions.
“We’re not going on strike at this moment,” said ATU Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary. “We want to sit down and avert a lockout or a strike and at this time we have put down a fair amount of cutbacks that we have taken off our original offer, and we think it’s a reasonable offer.”
ATU’s counter proposal calls for a 7.75 per cent wage increase over four years — 1.75 per cent the first year and 2 per cent in each of the following three years — less than the 8 per cent increase in the city’s latest offer.
ATU had previously been seeking an 11 per cent wage increase over four years.
ATU said it believes members are willing to take a lower wage increase in order to improve scheduling and working conditions — two of the key issues it wants the city to address.
“We’re giving the city the opportunity to be able to give us a decent, fair wage increase and to be able to put some money towards working conditions which we have been fighting for,” said Chaudhary.
The ATU said drivers’ main concern is scheduling. Chaudhary said ATU members want the city to improve scheduling because drivers are struggling to keep buses running on time due to a lack of a realistic and fair schedule by Winnipeg Transit.
“Our operators are going out of their way to keep the buses on time,” said Chaudhary. “Drivers are pushing it. Drivers are pushing the limits.
“Our membership is fed up.”
ATU said along with better scheduling it also wants the city to implement a five-minute break period at the end of a route to allow drivers time to decompress, stretch and use the washroom.
ATU said some routes have allowed for layover times of between four and eight minutes, but if buses are running late, drivers rarely have time to use the washroom or grab a coffee during their shifts.
ATU implemented a ban on voluntary overtime in June.
Earlier this month the City of Winnipeg revoked terms and conditions of the now-expired contract, meaning drivers can’t trade shifts or vacation time. The move also means all drivers are now assigned routes as opposed to being able to choose based on seniority.
In response, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg said it’s disappointed union members voted to reject the offer.
“The final offer that ATU rejected included a general wage increase of 2 percent each year in January 2020, 2021, 2022, and a 2 percent increase on March 31, 2023,” the city said, explaining that by 2023 bus operators at top rate would earn $59,000 and mechanics $74,000, plus benefits.
“We will review the counterproposal that ATU has sent late this afternoon. We will not provide any further comment until we have been able to fully review this offer.”
The ATU has been without a contract since January. The city said in that time it’s provided four offers to settle.