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Region hopes union, contractors resume negotiating
to end YRT / Viva strike

The Regional Municipality of York has announced that the three private contractors supplying York Region Transit and Viva service to the region are willing to resume negotiating with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)’s Local 1587 and Local 113.

Members of ATU Locals 1587 and 113 have been on strike against First Canada, Miller Transport and York BRT Services (Viva) since Monday, October 24.

Local 1587 represents 350 workers at Miller Transport and First Canada. Local 113 represents 220 workers at York BRT Services.

The region says that the three contractors have reached out, or are in the process of reaching out, to union representatives. However, the union claims that it’s still waiting to hear from the companies.

“We have not been contacted by the contractors yet but we will return to the bargaining table if invited and make every attempt to reach a fair and reasonable settlement,” said Bob Kinnear, president of Local 113.

“We tried to resume negotiations weeks ago but were rebuffed by the employers, just so the record is clear on that point.”

During a press conference last week, York Region Chair and Chief Executive Officer Bill Fisch explained that regional council would not ask the Government of Ontario to enact back-to-work legislation. Fisch called for the workers to restore transit services immediately and demanded that the companies and the union return to the bargaining table to negotiate a deal.

“We are encouraged that YRT / Viva contracted operators are prepared to meet with the unions to resume negotiations,” Fisch said today. “Neither back-to-work legislation nor arbitration are an acceptable answer to a refusal to negotiate. We hold our contractors responsible for negotiating a fair and reasonable contract with their employees and we expect the union to resume negotiations in good faith, for the benefit of their membership and the riders they serve.”

The region says it will not intervene in the current dispute between the contractors and unions and will not become involved in any negotiations, which could lead to, it says, “extraordinary tax rate increases for all regional residents, higher transit fares for commuters, or both”.

According to a York Region news release, potential costs to York Region taxpayers would be as much as $10 million each year or up to $40 million in the life of the transit contracts. To pay for this, the region would have to increase property taxes as much as $26 annually for an average household or increase fares by 45 cents — in addition to the transit fare increase the region has already scheduled for Sunday, January 1, 2012.

“We are now in week seven of the YRT / Viva strike,” added Chairman Fisch. “For the sake of our residents, families and businesses who continue to be the unfortunate victims of this strike, we hope to see an immediate return of transit service as negotiations resume.”

The union says that the contractors told it in early November that they would not change their final offers, despite the fact that the employees had withdrawn their services. It then proposed ending the strike immediately if the companies had agreed to a neutral arbitration process. Both the contractors and Fisch rejected this offer, according to the union.

“Our offer to end the strike immediately through arbitration still stands,” said Kinnear. “But the strike will continue until there is a settlement or an agreement to arbitrate.

“If we go back to work without a settlement, there will be no incentive for the employers to make a fair and reasonable offer. They had their chance back in October and they blew it. Maybe this time they’ll make a serious offer. We certainly hope so.”