After meeting behind closed doors for nearly 15 hours Thursday, city council voted to soften its approach to bargaining with the 2,300 striking OC Transpo employees, but the union said the city still doesn’t get it.
After receiving a briefing on the scheduling issue from OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier, city council unanimously passed a motion stating that they are willing to renegotiate a work-scheduling regimen, as long as it meets federal safety standards on mandatory work/rest rules and does not result in an increased financial offer.
“We had a presentation today that was very credible and it pointed out that the city’s concern over safety and reliability is very real,” said city manager Kent Kirkpatrick. “We’re open to accepting a new negotiated settlement and it can be comprised of a new combination of the economic factors, it just cannot cost more than the last offer did.”
The city is insisting that drivers get a minimum of eight hours rest in a 24-hour period, and at least one day off every two weeks. They also want to limit drivers to a maximum of 14 hours behind the wheel in a 24-hour period.
Mercier said there were 65 drivers going over the 14-hour limit at least once per week. On stat holidays, some operators work for 32 hours on only six hours rest and leading up to the strike, one driver had worked 190 consecutive days.
Following the vote, ATU 279 scheduling representative Craig Watson accused Mercier of misleading councillors by referring to outdated materials and reiterated his request to tell councillors their side of the discussion.
“We’re very disappointed in Mr. Mercier. He obviously doesn’t get it,” he said. “We feel sorry for the citizens of this great city. They have been let down again by this council, this mayor, and Mr. Mercier. We apologize to all of them.”
The motion also requested that the ATU agree to have an independent third-party fact-finder to resolve issues related to scheduling.
Kirkpatrick said that person could be brought in quickly to work simultaneously with other negotiations, but it could still take two more weeks to sort out.