Contract talks stalled, bus drivers for Saskatoon meet

Bus drivers in Saskatoon, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (Local 615), are meeting Monday to discuss what to do next in the collective bargaining process with the city. Their last deal expired in 2012.

'We want to resolve this without impacting the citizens,' ATU head says

ATU president Jim Yakubowski talks with locked out Saskatoon Transit workers in front of city hall in October 2014. (Steve Pasqualotto/CBC)

Going on four years without a new contract with the City of Saskatoon, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 615 is holding a marathon meeting for members to discuss next steps.

The union represents bus drivers and other workers in the city's transit system.

Their last collective agreement expired in 2012. Since then, despite lengthy bargaining sessions, an illegal lockout and a second lockout notice that was eventually rescinded at the request of city council, negotiations remain at an impasse.

Union president Jim Yakubowski said the union has expressed a willingness to accept the wage package proposed by city officials.

This has gone on a fair length of time and it needs to be resolved.- Jim Yakubowski

"Basically the same [wage] proposal the other eight unions signed up for is what we're willing to accept with some slight alterations in some classifications; so that was our big movement from the money side of it," Yakubowski said.  

It appears, however, that proposed changes to the pension plan for ATU members is a sticking point.

When negotiations started, Saskatoon's managers said the pension plan was unsustainable and wanted contributions from workers to be increased.

However, union leaders say they have a different view regarding the state of the pension plan.

"Since bargaining in late 2013, our pension plan — as we suspected — does have substantially more assets than what was believed to be and the plan was not in the condition the employer interpreted it to be at the time," Yakubowski said. "It sounds like I'm throwing stones here, but I can prove that what we were told at the bargaining table was not necessarily how the plan functioned."

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union picket in front of Saskatoon City Hall in October 2014. (Albert Couillard/CBC)

According to Yakubowski, $100 million came into the pension plan in 2013 and another $56 million in 2014. Those additions, he said, stabilized the pension plan.

Officials from the city did not want to comment.

"We understand the public interest in this issue," city officials said in a statement. "However, given the current state of bargaining with the transit union we are declining interviews or declining to making detailed statements related to our discussions."

Union members frustrated

Yakubowski said he senses growing frustration among union members about state of negotiations.

"People are frustrated and want to bring this issue to a head and I believe many people agree with our position that we want to resolve this without impacting the citizens of Saskatoon," he said. "But it takes willingness from both sides and that flies both ways ... This has gone on a fair length of time and it needs to be resolved."

The ATU's special meeting is set for the Ramada Hotel in Saskatoon from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST.

Clarifications

  • This story previously stated there was a second lockout. It has been changed to state that the second lockout notice that was eventually rescinded at the request of city council.
    Mar 07, 2016 3:49 PM CT

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