Just weeks after the strike of April 25, TTC management and workers are travelling much more quietly toward a labour deal, albeit one imposed by a third party. Both the transit agency and Amalgamated Transit Union local 113 have officially agreed to an arbitrator. Kevin Burkett now has less than 90 days to decide on a new contract.
TTC chief general manager Gary Webster told In Transit on Monday, “Often, when you’re working with a third party, you’ve been unable to reach a tentative agreement and you’ve ended up in some kind strike or lockout situation. In the TTC’s case, there was a tentative agreement reached between the two parties.”
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The executive board of local 113 officially supported the proposed contract before workers voted it down, but Webster acknowledges it “wasn’t recommended by all the members of the union executive and clearly wasn’t supported by the majority” of employees who cast votes. He states, “The issue really becomes … how much weight Mr. Burkett puts on the tentative settlement.”
Several media reports suggest Burkett could approve a final contract that closely resembles the negotiated version.
The TTC chief says a meeting with both parties and the arbitrator has been set up for later this month. Burkett is to study briefs from each side about which issues they believe are and are not in dispute. Webster points out, “You can’t raise anything now that wasn’t discussed as part of the contract negotiations.”
But isn’t that claim complicated by reports the ATU tabled new demands right after the strike? Webster confirms, “There was a document that was presented to management after the strike and, you know, it’s probably not appropriate to comment any further about that document, but (it) obviously didn’t lead us to any kind of negotiated settlement on the Sunday following the strike,” (the day Ontario legislators ordered TTC employees back to work).
A few key irritants have also strained relations between the TTC and its workers, even before the formal contract talks began earlier this year. One is a request from surface vehicle operators for plastic shield doors to avoid abuse from passengers, and the other is a long-awaited job evaluation that could potentially boost wages for drivers and collectors — on top of any yearly increases designated in a labour contract.
Webster says both parties agreed not to bring up driver barriers during bargaining and the job classification process also continues separately. However, he states that the tentative contract’s so-called GTA clause would not have been “triggered” if the job evaluation issue was finally settled in “favour of the union.” In that scenario, he says if a nearby transit agency agreed to bigger raises than a TTC contract provides its own workers, this would “not re-open our wages.”
Coming up, I’ll ask ATU president Bob Kinnear for his views on these and other developments.