The mood outside city hall at 1 Carden Street was oddly cordial. No one was shouting words of scorn at the drivers, not one was playing the blame game, and the general public - whether they be walking or driving by - offered words, or honks, of support. That's life in the cat bird seat. Even though it was their vote to reject the city's offer that sparked the lockout, the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 seem to be holding the high ground. But as the anger settles, and people start to seriously ask the question, why the heck did the union reject the deal in the first place?
I ventured down to the picket line at city hall today to see where the divide between worker and management lie. Long answer short: it's not about the money. Many union members said that the money being offered was fine, it was more so yes they'll take it, but what they really wanted a deal on was working conditions. What does that mean? Well, the transit is still missing that lunchroom the city promised when they designed Guelph Central Station. The current lunch facilities are, according to ATU 1189 President Andrew Cleary, a 9 minute walk to and from the station, leaving about 12 minutes for drivers to scarf down lunch.
What else? They don't like the unisex washrooms at GCS. The maintenance crew thinks they've been overlooked in the negotiations, responsible for a fleet of buses and put under enormous pressure to keep them running to meet the city's increased demand but not increased support. There's also still some hard feelings. Yes, there was all that stuff we said when the routes changed almost three years ago, but they're also still stinging from taking the blame for that overtime controversy, especially when much of that overtime has because of city mandated provisions like the late night bus service.
Most interestingly though, I was told that the union might have accepted a one year extension of the current contract if it meant that the city would keep negotiating with them about the finer points of their demands concerning working conditions. So any which way you slice it, the ball is in the city's court as union members say they're ready, willing and able to work. Now. If only the City of Guelph will take the locks off and come back to the bargaining table.
Here's the Guelph Polideo I shot today:
In the meantime, if you're stuck for a way of getting around, use Twitter and the hashtag #GuelphCarpool to see if someone's going your way. There's also a Facebook page as well if that's your social media platform of choice. Sit tight folks, this one looks like it might go long.