City buses might be indefinitely parked next week.
If workers aren’t satisfied with the results of negotiations with the city, a top North American transit union official suggests they hit the picket lines.
“At the end of the day, and I think the end of the day will be noon on Saturday, if we haven’t got an agreement we can recommend to our members we will recommend we take job action,” said International Amalgamated Transit Union vice-president Larry Kinnear at a news conference Monday morning.
“I would suggest we take full job action as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday.”
That mean no transit services whatsoever Monday morning.
The local 966 of the ATU will find themselves in a legal strike position on Jan. 20 and held their news conference with high-ranking union officials at the Airlane Hotel to affirm their position.
Local union president Sheila Kivisto confirmed that about 160 members are prepared for job action.
“We are ready to go,” Kivisto said. “I’d like to be optimistic in thinking that they would come with something to the table but we are ready to stand up for what we think is fair.”
The two sides are scheduled to hold conciliation meetings ahead of the deadline on Thursday and Friday of this week.
Members of the union have been working without a contract since the most recent agreement expired in June 2012.
Ontario ATU and Toronto local 113 president Bob Kinnear said the onus is on the elected officials in city hall to focus on making a deal happen.
“We know that the negotiating committee at the bargaining table are not making the decisions,” he said. “They’re just simply the puppets of city councillors and it’s time councillors start pulling some of those strings.”
The transit union plans to do everything possible to avoid service disruption but the city needs to do the same, Kivisto added.
Larry Kinnear, who lends assistance in similar disputes across Ontario, said the arrangement in which services have continued to be provided without a contract is unusual.
“They seem to take a lackadaisical attitude towards negotiations,” he said of the city’s stance.
“I can assure you that of all my contracts in the province of Ontario, no membership waits 18 months to try to get an agreement. They’ll take action prior to that.”
Kivisto and the visiting union officials repeatedly said Thunder Bay transit workers are the second-lowest compensated in the province, trailing only the 28 members of Cornwall.
According to Bob Kinnear, the eye care benefit package is one particular point of contention for workers. He said workers are entitled to $150 for eyewear on a biannual basis.
“That’s deplorable,” he said.
“I would suggest the people of Thunder Bay would want their transit operators or their employer to ensure transit operators have the things they need like proper eyewear. I don’t want my bus driver driving a bus with improper eyewear.”
Local workers voted 99 per cent in favour of job action in October.
The head of the provincial transit union said in the event of a strike, workers will have access to enough resources to make it last. He warned the job action threat is made knowing the workers are ready to stand up as long as it takes.
“When we prepare for a strike we’re not talking about a week or two,” Bob Kinnear said. “We’ll be prepared to be out there for months if necessary.”
Officials with the City of Thunder Bay were unable to provide comment when contacted by tbnewswatch.com Monday afternoon.