Replacement workers could be brought in to drive buses if the 2,300 striking OC Transpo members vote to reject the city’s latest contract today.

“I won’t comment on replacement workers directly, but when we go back to council next Wednesday, all of the legally available mitigation options will be open to us,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien. “You wouldn’t talk about replacement workers while you’re trying get people to vote on what you thought was a very fair and reasonable offer.”

In a memo sent to councillors yesterday, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick wrote that the use of replacement workers is a legal action but only “as long as it is clear that the action is taken with the goal of maintaining operations and not the ‘breaking’ of the union.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 secretary-treasurer Jim Haddad dismissed talk of replacement workers as just a scare tactic.

“They’re using every dirty trick in the book to get our members to accept their offer,” he said.
OC Transpo employees are voting on the city’s offer today at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Results from the vote will be released after the voting window closes at 8 p.m.

In a letter to OC Transpo employees posted on the union website, ATU 279 president Andre Cornellier urged members not to let the city break their spirit and starve them into submission.

“The city hopes that a Yes vote will provide short-term relief from a four-week-old strike, but hopes you ignore the long-term pain that will come with the deal,” he wrote. “After a lifetime in service to this membership, I can say to you — this is a bad settlement from which we will never recover.”

O’Brien said the union leadership told members that voting No on the first offer would only strengthen their position and lead to a quick resolution.

“Now, we’re almost 30 days into the strike,” he said. “There is no conceivable way that they will be back to work next week with a No vote.”

However, O’Brien said the city would be delighted to welcome employees back in the case of a Yes vote, and the city would be working non-stop to get the system back to full capacity over the next week.