GO bus users are urged to plan ahead for Monday as there could be no bus service if thousands of GO Transit workers go on strike.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1587, which represents 2,200 station attendants, bus operators, maintenance workers, transit safety officers and office personnel, said 81 per cent of its members voted against Metrolinx’s latest proposal and instead agreed to hit the picket lines.
“Our members have made it utterly clear. We will not accept a deal unless it addresses our primary concern, which is contracting out,” ATU Local 1587 president Rob Cormier said in a statement.
“These basic protections against contracting out are the norm at every other transit agency in our region to ensure that experienced, workers are on the job to ensure the safety of the buses. Without these protections, Metrolinx can contract to outside companies.”
Speaking to CP24 Friday afternoon, Cormier said he is still optimistic that the strike could be averted. He noted the union has booked a hotel, hoping to get a new contract with Metrolinx this weekend.
“We plan to work all weekend. We want to get a deal for our members. Our last resort is to go on strike,” Cormier said.
About 700 of the union’s members are bus operators.
In a statement, Metrolinx, the Crown agency responsible for GO Transit, said it is “disappointed” that its offer was rejected and a strike is being planned.
“We will be working throughout the weekend to get an agreement and remain open to discussing ways forward with our ATU employees,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said.
While there will be no GO bus service on Monday if the strike proceeds, GO trains will continue to operate as scheduled.
Aikins said 15 per cent of GO customers use the buses.
Transit workers initially planned to go on strike on Oct. 31, but it was halted so the union could present Metrolinx’s offer to its members.
They have been without a contract since June. While the transit agency and the union had met months before the agreement expired, they failed to produce a new deal, leading to union members voting in favour of a strike mandate in August.
In an interview with CP24 Friday evening, Aikins said the agency has a contingency plan if the job action goes ahead.
She advised customers to keep monitoring GO Transit’s website and social media accounts for any updates on the situation.
When asked about the union’s concern about contract workers, Aikins said Metrolinx is committed to ensuring that its workers have job security.
“We have no intention of laying them off or replacing them with other workers or contract workers,” she said.
That’s why Aikins believes that a deal could be reached this weekend.
“We don’t think that anything’s insurmountable that we should be able to reach an agreement,” she said, adding that Metrolinx will be working non-stop with the union this weekend to produce a new deal.
“We believe if we just talk this through, we can find a resolution that both sides are satisfied with. We’ve resolved so many issues.”
GO is the regional public transit service for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
– with files from Joshua Freeman