THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay Transit drivers have voted overwhelmingly for a strike mandate as their union heads into conciliation talks with the city.
Members of ATU Local 966 voted 96 per cent in favour of the mandate during a vote at the Moose Hall Sunday evening.
“It’s a strong mandate, and it just shows the frustration our members are feeling,” said union president Fred Caputo. “They’ve worked through the pandemic and they just don’t feel appreciated.”
The union represents 150 transit members, including conventional and Lift+ drivers and technicians.
Those members could begin work to rule-style actions as their union heads into talks with the city, withdrawing voluntary overtime and other practices that go above and beyond requirements, like dropping passengers at locations other than official stops.
The union filed for conciliation after breaking off talks on Sept. 28, following around 15 meetings dating back months.
The Ministry of Labour has now launched that process, but Caputo said a conciliator had not yet been appointed and the timeline remains uncertain, partly thanks to COVID-19.
If conciliated talks don’t produce an agreement, the union could be in a legal strike position 17 days after a no board report from a conciliator.
The previous agreement expired in June of 2020. It provides for starting wages of $22.50 an hour, jumping to $28.12 in the second year of employment, as well as wage increases of 1.5 to 1.65 per cent a year.
Caputo declined to describe key issues in the bargaining process, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize negotiations.
The City of Thunder Bay was not immediately available for comment Sunday.