In case of strike, half their wages will go to charity

Parts of greater Toronto’s transit network are clearly showing strain.


Many routes are so popular that even a small delay on one vehicle can have substantial ripple effects — just ask riders stuck waiting for buses, streetcars and trains that arrive late and so overcrowded that no-one can board.


GO train patrons have now joined Toronto and Mississauga transit users in experiencing trickle-down delays compounded by serious capacity problems.


Cold weather, labour issues and track construction are exacerbating GO Transit’s already pressing challenge to expand. Many riders go from frustration to suspecting that somebody must not be doing their job. The situation is complex and practical solutions will require cooperation between many parties.


Labour issues are just one part of the picture.

Delays hit GO’s Lakeshore line early in January after CN Rail removed 34 locomotive engineer positions from trains the company operates on behalf of GO. Then last week came the news that CN conductors throughout Canada would be in strike position early on Friday, February 9.

Glen Gower of the United Transportation Union told In Transit yesterday that contract negotiators in Montreal had clarified that date and a nationwide strike, if it happens, would not take place before 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

Gower, chair of the union local that represents GO conductors, also confirmed that he asked his members last week to voluntarily work GO trains if there is a strike.

The arrangement, to which CN has agreed, would have half the worker’s wages donated to Sick Children’s Hospital.

He says, “I’m fairly confident we will be able to operate the full service. There may be unforeseen situations that may arise that we will work out as they come up.”

Riders concerned that some recent delays might be due to an unprofessional attitude on the part of train crews may wish to revise their assessment in light of this offer by GO conductors.

Locomotive engineers, who belong to a separate union, are apparently still reeling from the job changes last month.

I understand that morale is very low due to concerns about safety and working conditions. Train crews are responsible for thousands of passengers on board their trains, and I am not getting the sense that anyone has lost sight of this responsibility.

Many railway employees are clearly upset, and some may have stopped going out of their way to provide service beyond what the job requires.

If that is the case, and it results in delays that used to be avoided, then it is up to the employers and the unions to repair the work environment.