Oct 26, 2009

Federal arbitrator sides with city in strike settlement

This is a direct reprint from the Public Transit in Ottawa blog. Thanks for great reporting.
The outcome of arbitration which was used to settle the underlying issues of Ottawa's 52-day winter 2009 transit strike was released today, and reports indicate that the arbitrator sided with the City of Ottawa in the dispute.

The decision, which covers the three-year contract ending in March 2011, includes the following:

* City gains control of scheduling
* A raise of 8.25 per cent (3.25, 2.5, and 2.5 in the three years)
* No one-time signing bonus
* No new with sick/special leave
* No contracting-out changes

One of the City's contract offers just before both sides agreed to arbitration was 7.25 per cent over three years, an increased number of sick days, a one-time bonus, and scheduling responsibilities handed over to the City--an offer which was soundly rejected in a federally-forced vote. The union was reportedly looking to retain control of scheduling, and gain a raise of 9.25 per cent over three years.

The issue of scheduling was the most contentious item in the strike, with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 not willing to negotiate on it, and the City unwilling to negotiate without it on the table. OC Transpo management suggested that their reason for wanting to wrest control of scheduling was to take advantage of 'operational efficiencies' they felt they could gain.

Another of the key issues from the ATU's side was the contracting out of services. Particularly with regards to mechanics and the servicing of OC Transpo equipment, the union wanted some certainty that they had job security. This settlement fails to ease that concern, and OC Transpo management had suggested that contracting out some services may offer more operational efficiencies.

It is now up to OC Transpo management to demonstrate that those operational efficiencies are, in fact, significant enough to have justified the 52-day strike.

This arbitration settlement adds a level of intrigue to the ATU's recent vote against giving up their right to strike in favour of sending all future negotiations to arbitration. Although the common perception of arbitration is that they favour unions, this settlement demonstrates that they do not, necessarily.

Mainstream coverage of the outcome: