Today, the 200 some odd employees of Guelph Transit vote on a deal offered by the City of Guelph - their final offer. If the deal is voted down, it doesn't necessarily mean that there will be no bus service Saturday, but it might, which makes the vote today critical for the hundreds and hundreds of people that depend on the city's bus system to get around. Somewhat secondary is the undercurrent of animosity from the two sides, which has been in no way helped by this very adversarial negotiation process, and will unlikely be helped by a press release sent out by the city yesterday.
In an unusual move, the city outlined its offer to the union in a press release. "The City of Guelph is sharing details of its final offer to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 to ensure that ATU members, transit riders and Guelph taxpayers have an accurate understanding of the City’s position," says the release.
But why? Why the sudden transparency?
"Sensational and inaccurate comments made by ATU’s president without context are simply a common tactic used to divert the attention of the public and union members from the details of what is, in reality, a fair and equitable offer," said executive director of Corporate and Human Resources, Mark Amorosi in the release. "Based on recent comments made in the media by ATU’s president, the City believes the public and our employees have a right to know the facts and critical details of the City’s offer."
Those "sensational and inaccurate comments" include the following said by Andrew Cleary, president of the ATU Local 1189 in a statement to the Guelph Mercury:
"[W]e see nothing of the sort from their negotiation team refusing to meet with us through the conciliator face to face."
"Instead, they rescinded their only offer and stood up from the table, cancelling a further date, then filed for a provincially monitored vote, even after we had agreed to take the offer back to our members — their employees," Cleary writes.
While city hall fights the perception that they're not negotiating in good faith, Guelph Transit employees will be deciding whether or not to accept wage increases of 1.7 per cent as of July 1, 2013, 1.6 per cent as of July 1, 2014, 1.6 per cent as of July 1, 2015 and 1.5 per cent as of July 1, 2016. The city also says that the ATU Local 1189 hasn't issued their specific demands in regards to changes in wages and benefits. Two weeks ago though, while talking to CTV Kitchener, Cleary said that working conditions, primarily time allotted for washroom breaks and the access to washrooms at major transit hubs, are amongst the primary concern of the union.*
*I'm not sure what this means since City of Guelph employees are the only ones who have access to those washrooms, despite the fact that public facilities were part of the initial design of Guelph Central Station but were phased out when the project fell behind schedule.
The city is trying to keep a somewhat conciliatory tone. "We encourage our transit union members to read the final offer for themselves and come to their own conclusions," said Amorosi. "We value the contribution of our transit employees to an important City operation and hope to avoid any service disruption."
As I've said before, no one wants a strike in an election year, especially people running for re-election. As for Guelph Transit, there's already a lot of animoisty out there for the service whether it's the practical concerns of missed transfers or the grander issues of the overtime scandal last fall. One thing is for certain, and that's if buses don't not stop tomorrow, and if the deal is voted down, then the union will be in a position to hold a strike vote, and Cleary is not at all optimistic.
"About 25 per cent of the membership is on vacation at this time, so will you get a true and accurate vote, I don't think so," he told the CBC.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.