Apr 30, 2008

The question is - essential or not?

I have left the following comment on a couple of other blogs.

Have you noticed, that every time the TTC workers go on strike, that they are always forced back to work? This has been going on since 1974. Why would the government continue to do this, rather than make the TTC an essential service?

Take a look at other essential services. Fire department and police do not have the right to strike. This does not just apply to the city of Toronto. It is a province wide ban that prohibits these and many other workers from striking.

If the Ontario government, wishes to ban a transit strike in Toronto, it would have to include every public transit worker in the province. The government has no desire to do this.

I was going to leave at that and not publish a post on my blog about transit being a essential service. I have now decided, to give my two cents worth.

Transit is not considered an essential service in any Canadian province, though Quebec does have legislation for some public transit during a strike. Montreal transit has two large unions to deal with. One for maintenance and one for the drivers. The transit users get a double whammy. The government's solution to a strike in Montreal has been to force the workers to provide a service during the am and pm rush hours. This was not done to benefit commuters, but to avoid traffic jams that might prevent emergency vehicles from answering calls.

The only cities in Canada that transit workers could win a strike, would be ones that have a subway system. That would be Montreal and Toronto. Most cities, can manage without transit during a work stoppage.

This was evident in 2006 when Durham Region Transit employees went on strike. The strike lasted 24 days and there was no suggestion of intervention by the Ontario government. The Region, was prepared to let it last much longer if it had to.

Vancouver transit workers were legislated back to work in 2001. This was after the strike was into it's fourth month. This was not done because they were considered essential. It was done because the government had decided that the bargaining process was not working.

Toronto's City Council is already beginning to balk at the suggestion of making the TTC employees an essential service. After a one day wildcat strike by TTC workers in May 2006 the city has had a committee studying the matter. The committee is in no hurry to proceed.

The Ontario government are the only ones that would be able to pass any laws, that would force workers in Ontario to binding arbitration. This is just not going to happen on a permanent bases. So what can we expect? Outside of Toronto when negotiations fail, you can expect full fledged transit strikes. Inside Toronto you can expect lite strikes. They will be on strike for a few hours or days and then forced back to work. Don't expect any changes.


Calvin Henry-Cotnam said...

Here's what I find rather strange...

First, either a bargaining unit has the right to strike, or they represent people who perform duties considered 'essential services' and must go to binding arbitration if they cannot agree on a contract with management.

Second, there has been a reluctance for governments to declare any particular group of people (transit workers, in this case) as performing an 'essential service', because arbitration tends to favour the unions, and it seems logical that something 'essential' should be worth more.

So, the TTC employees are not designated 'essential', so they have a right to strike; but, when they go on strike, they are quickly ordered back to work and the negotiations go to binding arbitration anyways. Why does this remind me of way back when the phone company raised the cost of a pay phone from 10 cents to 20 cents knowing full well that pay phones don't give change for the quarter that most users were more likely to have on them?

They way I see it, we could pay the cost of 'essential service' designation by officially doing so, OR we could continue to pay the cost of 'essential service' PLUS put up with strikes by not doing so.

Andy said...

I can remember when I was on strike at the TTC and being forced back to work. Shortly after the ambulance attendants went on strike and they stayed out until they got a settlement. That has change since those days.

You must admit the MPPs are getting faster at passing back to work legislation. Too bad they fart around on everything else.