Things look bleak for those hoping to avoiding some kind of work stoppage involving Guelph Transit, be it a strike or a lockout. A new press release from City Hall today says that Guelph has extended its last offer to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189, and a vote on the part of over 200 Guelph Transit employees will determine whether or not the union strikes, or the City will lock them out. For the embattled unionized workers of Guelph Transit, there's a handful of bad options in front of them, but for the City of Guelph, and more importantly the members of city council looking to get re-elected, no one wants a city service to fall to job action in the middle of an election year.
You'll recall that back in March, the City sought provincial conciliation to reach an agreement with ATU 1189 in an effort to break the deadlock. The provincial conciliator filed a no-board report at the beginning of June, meaning that their efforts came to naught and the ball went back to the court of the two parties involved to solve their own problem. Although at this point both parties are in an actionable position vis-a-vis strike or lockout, this new proposal comes from the past couple of days of negotiations. Guelph Transit workers have been without a new contract for nearly a year now.
So how far might the parties take it? Will this all end amicably or are the thousands of people that depend on Guelph Transit going to stuck for another way of getting around? Obviously the City's playing hardball, and no one should expect anything less given prevailing economic conditions generally, and the specific local conditions of last fall's overtime report that hammered Transit in particular. Guelph Transit itself has not engendered a lot of faith from the public, but City Hall is also in an untenable position not wanting to look soft negotiating against a union, but also not wanting the bad press of a transit strike. Both parties are playing their cards close to the chest, and in the meantime, it may still be a couple of weeks before we learn the outcome of ATU 1189's vote on the City's package.
Here's the full press release from the City of Guelph:
Guelph, ON, June 26, 2014— Earlier today the City of Guelph presented a final offer to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189, having reached an impasse after 22 days of bargaining. That final offer represents the mandate provided to staff by City Council.
Presenting the union with a final offer allows all ATU members with a stake in the negotiations to view the City’s proposal and decide whether to accept or reject it. The City has requested a provincially monitored vote, which will take place in July.
“We hope ATU members compare the offer with transit union agreements in other cities,” said David Godwaldt, the City’s general manager of human resources. “If they do, we think they’ll find it is fair and competitive.”
“The City has given serious consideration to the negative impacts a public transit service disruption would pose to the community and, in particular, the riders who rely on this system,” says Guelph’s Mayor Karen Farbridge. “We are still working to avoid a disruption altogether and remain hopeful about reaching an agreement.”
The City has demonstrated its willingness to negotiate an agreement that includes fair wages and benefits for employees, reasonable rates for transit users and affordability for taxpayers. The agreement presented to the Union is consistent with other recent Ontario transit union agreements.
The City of Guelph has a demonstrated track record of reaching mutually beneficial agreements with its unions.
The City will continue posting negotiation updates at guelph.ca/atu.