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Scheduling, ‘quality of life’: Deal breakers?

Ottawa’s transit strike continues as OC Transpo workers voted againstthe city’s latest offer in a vote at Lansdowne Park on Thursday.

Ottawa’s transit strike continues as OC Transpo workers voted against the city’s latest offer in a vote at Lansdowne Park on Thursday.

Hundreds of the city’s 2,300 OC Transpo drivers, mechanics and other staff currently on strike cast their ballots at the Ottawa Civic Centre on Thursday, after federal Labour Minister Rona Ambrose ordered the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 to allow members to vote on the City of Ottawa’s latest offer.

While union management encouraged its members to reject the offer, it appeared Thursday that they didn’t have anything to worry about.

A press release from the mayor’s office said that 64.4 per cent of the eligible voters rejected the city’s latest contract offer.

The vote was “a waste of time,” said Naveen Kumar, a driver for OC Transpo for the past three-and-a-half years.

Standing outside the Civic Centre after their vote, Kumar and several of his fellow union members said they’d all voted no.

“The city’s not offering anything good,” he said. “It’s the same thing they offered before — it’s just the money that’s going up and up and up. But we don’t want the money. Scheduling is the big issue.”

Sort out the scheduling and “everyone will be back to work the next day,” he said.

He’s not worried that there’s talk of the city hiring scabs to drive the buses.

“It’s not that easy,” he said.

“I think it’ll be a landslide No vote,” said Dave Beamish, who has been driving a bus for more than 10 years.

“We’re in the trenches and plan on staying in,” he added. “We have no intention on giving up. This is about quality of life. We’re not going to prostitute ourselves for $2,500.”

Outside the Civic Centre, union supporters urged members to stand their ground.

“The City of Ottawa has been trying to push these workers against the wall,” said Joel Harden, a transit user and employee for the Canadian Labour Congress.

“We’re here to support quality of life. Forcing someone to work 13 hours is not fair. Reducing drivers isn’t fair.”

Although transit rider Stuart Neatpy has been inconvenienced by the strike, he said he was there to support workers’ rights.

He also wanted the drivers to know that not everyone is against them.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to maintain city services,” said transit user and student Lynne Hunter. And this strike has shown that the city has failed, she said.

“I hope there’s a strong No vote so the city will wake up,” she said. “I want this strike over.”

On Wednesday, city council will discuss options to mitigate the impact of the strike.

 
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