Hey, at least they're talking to each other - Metro US

Hey, at least they’re talking to each other

When I heard OC Transpo managers and union executives were attending counselling together, I’ll admit I snickered. (“Alain, when you say ‘You’re fired,’ I feel invalidated.”)

Isn’t this something couples who can’t stand each other do to prolong the agony? Indeed, in a joint news release (!) both the union and management say they are “fully committed” to the process. They want this to work.

If as a transit rider you’re feeling like the disaffected kid caught in the middle of this ugly sham of a relationship, you’re not alone, but adult behaviour has not been conspicuous from either side.

Far worse than the chaos and disruption of the strike was watching management, union and council complain about each other to the media day after day while refusing to even sit in the same room and exchange a word face to face.

The rest of us exhausted our ingenuity trying to get to work, to school, to doctor’s appointments, and on with our lives. Transpo’s management and union weren’t getting anywhere, and neither were we. Finally, the federal government intervened and legislated the buses back onto the streets. How long the strike would have lasted otherwise is anyone’s guess.

We’re still mopping up the mess. The scheduling issue that caused the strike continues to fester, and last week, the city dealt with the first of at least 18 taxi drivers accused of inflating claims on taxi chits issued to the poor so they could get around during the strike.

The strike created an emergency, which necessitated the improvised and poorly-monitored chit handout, and led to this disgrace.

So no matter how ludicrous the idea seems of OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier and ATU 279 president Andre Cornellier stuck in some touchy-feely encounter group, at least it’s an open channel. Somebody’s talking.

The participants say they’re trying to “depersonalize interventions and focus on issues,” which I think means stop pointlessly antagonizing each other, identify the real problem and try to solve it. Many of us learned this at an earlier age, but better late than never.

In addition to last month’s labour counselling with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, Transpo’s management and union are scheduled to meet again for two-day sessions in May and June.

The process, say management and union, “could also result in continuous bargaining rather than a traditional bargaining approach with strict timelines.”

This, too, is good news since the contract they’re still wrangling over expires next year anyway. Maintaining a functional relationship is, like it or not, part of the job.

– Steve Collins lives, writes and walks in Ottawa; ottawaletters@metronews.ca

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