Days 45, 46 and 47 of the strike could pass quietly this weekend.
The Ottawa transit strike rolls on in a quasi-media blackout, with both sides willing to talk about anything except negotiations.
In a blog posting on Thursday, Mayor Larry O’Brien defended the blackout, stating “It is the opinion of both parties that negotiating in the media does little to further our progress in ending the strike … I also feel it is very important to keep the citizens of Ottawa, who are suffering as a result of this strike, informed on any significant progress and we commit to doing so.”
Union representatives would not comment on negotiations, but responded to questions about the 400 per cent increase in overtime billing since 1997.
Last week, OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier told city council that the current scheduling system had too many short and inefficient runs that were partly responsible for the ballooning overtime bill.
However, Amalgamated Transit Union secretary-treasurer Jim Haddad insists the overtime bill is mostly due to the growth of work outpacing the growth of the workforce.
Until recently, Haddad said they were racking up a lot of overtime because they had to fill in daily for about 70 operators on long-term disability who were still on the schedule. Filling those routes required many drivers to work overtime.
Although working overtime is voluntary, many operators feel duty-bound to fill in for shifts if there is no one available to work the next shift. Haddad said there are times when it is almost impossible to find enough operators to fill in all the scheduled routes.