Residents of York Region continue to hear opposing messages from the government and transit unions on ending the nine-week strike.
Amalgamated Transit Union 1587 President Ray Doyle, alongside members of the union, sat in on last Thursday’s York Regional council meeting hoping to address council.
After interrupting the session a few times asking for a chance to speak, Doyle was told by York Region Chairman Bill Fisch that he would have two minutes to speak at the end of the meeting.
“I asked for a point of privilege to address the council on behalf of the striking workers and on behalf of the transit riders who are without the service,” Doyle told Salam Toronto. “However it seems to have fallen on deaf ears as that they have taken the same position they have all along.”
“The employer knows that is not a fair and reasonable offer and that’s why they’re afraid of going to binding arbitration,” Doyle said. “We know that we are not going to negotiate an end to this because we are too far apart in our requirements.”
Mr. Doyle’s comments and the increased picketing the over the past few weeks indicate that a negotiated settlement is nowhere near being agreed upon by both parties.
When speaking to Mr. Fisch afterwards, the message was much different.
“They are so close to actually coming to a deal,” Fisch told Salam Toronto, reiterating that York Region will not get involved in negotiations. “If it takes 24 hours or 48 hours straight, that’s what I think they should be doing.”
Mr. Fisch also said the government has saved $6 million from not having to subsidize the service and will be funnelling that money towards 30-days of free transit for when the strike ends.
The Regional Municipality of York has also filed an application for an injunction in the Superior Court of Justice against ATU Local 113 and ATU Local 1587 last Monday because of “significant delays at transportation facilities and administrative facilities as a result of service disruptions and blockades by members of the ATU.”
“An injunction would ease delays on YRT/Viva buses and at Regional facilities as a result of unlawful picketing by ATU members,” a York Region press release stated.
The release added that the ATU tactics over the past two weeks that have triggered the injunction include:
• Complete blockades of Regional transit vehicles
• Unlawful and unsafe blockages of roads
• YRT passengers and drivers harassed and intimidated
• YRT passengers forcibly held on buses by picketers at transit terminals
• Unsafe picketing resulting in several picketers being struck by vehicles
• Regional employees and the public being obstructed and denied access to Regional buildings for up to 90 minutes.
There have been brief negotiations between the two parties over the last two weeks but a divide still remains over several issues including pay and benefits.