Hamilton's transit union has ratified a four-year deal that will see bus drivers receive a seven per cent pay increase over the contract, but cap physiotherapy benefits at $1,500 per year.
Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 voted 86 per cent in favour of ratifying the deal, reached at the deadline to avoid a strike last week, despite concessions in benefits and term length.
The two sides struck a deal just after 5 a.m. last Thursday after an all-night bargaining session. HSR drivers were in a legal strike position as of 12:01 a.m., and GO Transit had contingency plans in place in case there was a strike and pickets set up around GO facilities.
In the end, the buses ran as scheduled in Hamilton.
ATU president Eric Tuck said two-thirds of union members cast a vote to ratify the deal, despite the cap being placed on physiotherapy benefits.
"If you have ever spent any time driving in the curb lane it is like riding a bucking bronco at the Calgary Stampede," said Tuck. "When you do that for eight to ten hours per day over the course of a career, it really wreaks havoc on your skeletal and muscular frame.
"This City had better address the deteriorating road conditions or they may face higher levels of absenteeism and WSIB claims since members won't be able to use this benefit for conditioning and maintenance."
Aside from losing ground on benefits, the transit union lost its fight with the city to get their contract out from under the shadow of municipal elections. The union initially sought any term other than four years to avoid delayed negotiations because of elections. The old deal expired at the end of 2014.
The union will receive a 1 per cent raise in the first year, and 2 per cent raises in each year thereafter.
The ATU represents 658 bus drivers and mechanics.
Hamilton bus drivers earned a maximum of $29.44 per hour in 2014, in the upper middle range of comparator cities. TTC operators make $32.03 and GO Transit operators earn $31.88. In Waterloo, they earned $28.27 and in Guelph, $27.21.