Now that transit buses are transiting the city and ferries finally ferrying passengers, let’s take one last, un-fond look back at what went wrong and where we go from here.
To begin with the obvious: problems at Metro transit predate—and go much deeper than—this latest dispute. Metro Transit is over-managed and under-performing, neither of which is the fault of the drivers, or even the previous contract.
Going into negotiations, management believed it needed to transform the traditional scheduling system to reduce overtime. But it appears they made few meaningful efforts to engage their employees in developing a better system prior to issuing their take-it-or-leave-it contract edict.
Metro Transit—in its unseemly haste to breeze past the formalities of offer, counter-offer, non-counter-offer and conciliation with little real bargaining—seems to have been spoiling for a grind-them-down strike from the beginning.
And Metro Transit did an abysmal job of explaining its side of “rostering,” the issue it deemed central to the dispute.
Then again, so did the union.
Which left the public with little understanding of why they suddenly didn’t have a bus service.
To say neither side distinguished itself during the strike is an understatement.
The union squandered what little public support it had—public sector workers are everyone’s favourite whipping boys these days—with its ill-advised decision to block, even briefly, management-driven Access-a-Buses. The drivers then compounded that faux pas by blocking—again only briefly—snow plow operators.
While one can understand their frustrations, the reality is the union needed public support to pressure city council to bargain in better faith.
They didn’t get it.
The deal they got—a promise Metro Transit will consult instead of simply imposing a new scheduling system—isn’t what either side wanted.
But it does offer the possibility of a fresh start.
Management must recognize its workers have a role in making bus service more efficient—they may have a few suggestions for which managers can go!—and the workers need to recognize they can’t just cling to the past.
Luckily, they now have five years to make it work.