The union representing Thunder Bay transit workers is warning that if talks don't go well this week, passengers may face service disruptions starting Monday.
The Amalgamated Transit Union said it's optimistic about mediated negotiations with the city planned for this coming Thursday and Friday.
But local president Sheila Kivisto has warned that transit workers will be in a legal strike position next Monday morning. She said workers don't want to disrupt services for their passengers — but they will if they have to.
"We are ready to stand up for what we think is fair," she said. "We're trying to hang on to the benefits that we have and we are ranked ... second from the bottom in Ontario for the work that we do. We're looking for fair. We're looking to get to the fair wage that we are well-deserved."
Kivisto couldn't say whether or not job action would include service disruptions or a full-blown strike if Thursday and Friday's negotiations don't work.
The union brought in reinforcements during a Monday morning news conference. Union leaders representing transit workers from Hamilton and Peterborough were on hand.
Also present was the head of the ATU in Ontario and leader of the transit union in Toronto.
Bob Kinnear spoke very forcefully, saying Thunder Bay transit workers are being treated like second-class citizens with the second-lowest wages in Ontario.
He said Thunder Bay city council needs to be proactive to avert a strike or other job action.
"We know that the negotiating committee at the bargaining table [is] not making the decisions. They're just simply the puppets of the city councillors," Kinnear said.
"So it's time city councillors start pulling some of those strings and ensure that the people of Thunder Bay continue to have public transit as they deserve."
Kinnear is urging city councillors to solve this issue this week. He noted there is a Thunder Bay council meeting tonight, and said workers will do whatever it takes to achieve what they believe is fair.