Ottawa’s longest-ever transit strike could be its last, said acting mayor Michel Bellemare yesterday, following a closed-door session at city hall.

Councillors voted unanimously on the motion of the joint union-management proposal with Amalgamated Transit Union local 279 that will prevent transit strikes or lockouts by implementing an arbitration system that would automatically settle future labour disputes.

The proposal still has to be ratified by ATU 279 membership.

“We will be recommending to the union to accept (the proposal), and the membership will decide,” said ATU Local 279 president André Cornellier. “I am confident that the majority will accept it.”

The 53-day transit strike ended with all issues being sent to arbitration under threat of back-to-work legislation from the federal government.

“The strike essentially ended in a stalemate, and exhausted our community,” said Bellemare. “Both parties have recognized there has to be a better way to resolve things than lockouts or strikes.”

In interest arbitration, the negotiating parties have their disputes resolved by an independent third party, which eliminates the ability for either side in a labour negotiation dispute to strike or lockout.

Although the ATU rejected going to an arbitrator during the strike in January, ATU international vice-president Randy Graham said that the proposal back then did not look to speak to all of the outstanding issues of the union.

“We think that the (binding arbitration) process as it is now will allow us to avoid the long and grueling middle step that was the strike,” said Graham.

Capital ward Coun. Clive Doucet said that the prevention of future strikes is an important step in rebuilding the city’s trust with the public.

“This proposal recognizes a legislation we should have had in place before the transit strike began,” said Doucet. “Transit is an essential service, and we saw that people’s lives begin to unravel when the transit system falls apart.”

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