Metro Transit negotiations require talking… and leadership


Whatever else one can say about the rights-wrongs of the current Metro Transit strike, it is clear city negotiators were never interested in negotiating with its 760 bus drivers, ferry operators and support staff.

The contract between Metro Transit and the Amalgamated Transit Union expired Sept 1. There was just one face-to-face session—essentially a presentation of proposals—before the city applied for conciliation. That’s unusual. According to the union, the city and its police and water commission unions are still negotiating new contracts two and four years after the previous ones expired.

From November to January, the two sides met with a conciliator eight times before the city walked away, triggering a conciliator’s report, a strike vote and the countdown to the now ongoing work stoppage.

City negotiators twiddled their thumbs until 30 minutes before last Wednesday’s midnight strike deadline. Then they offered the union—which had a 98.4 per cent strike mandate—an either-or, take-it-or-leave-it offer.

The key sticking point isn’t money but scheduling.

The city blames a century-old rostering system—which allows senior drivers to pick their schedules first—for $1 million in un-budgeted overtime. (A city report, however, acknowledges those cost overruns include covering for vacancies, sick leave, holidays and special events, and represent only one factor in Metro Transit’s $3-million deficit.)

The drivers say they need rostering because of the split-shift nature of their jobs. A driver, who is required to report for work at the Transit garage 15 minutes before a 6 a.m .shift, drives for four hours and may find herself ending her shift far from the transit garage—and her car. She then has four hours to kill before beginning her 2 p.m. shift somewhere else. An eight-hour day suddenly becomes more than 12.

Surely, there are ways to make the rostering system more efficient for Metro Transit without eliminating its obvious lifestyle benefits for long-time drivers.

But in order to accomplish that, the two sides would have to talk.

There’s no sign that will happen soon.

And no sign either of leadership from city hall to make that happen.

  1. The union pres, Ken Wilson, has stated very clearly that the scheduling is no longer an issue. The city offered a contract without the proposed scheduling changes, in exchange for a smaller wage increase, which the union accepted. So, unless the union is being dishonest with the public, your whole article is pretty much BS.


  2. first of all, even with rostering its still going to be picked by seniority. the only difference is that they will be picking there work by the week instead of by the day. The union says it is to benefit their way of life. right now the bottom 50 plus operators are being forced on the spareboard, which makes them have to work 6 days a week. Rostering would increase the number of weekly shifts available to pick, meaning less operator would be forced onto the spareboard. On the spareboard you find out at 2pm what your doing the next day. with more shifts available more operators will be able to have a set schedule of work. picking rostered shifts, and vacations are still going to be picked by seniority. There is 27 issues, the reason why the union says there is 70 items is because the 27 items are repeated in the contract for the conventional, and access a bus and maintenance departments.


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