Beyond the Headlines

Divorce rates and cafeteria shifts

Posted: Feb 6, 2012 11:08 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 6, 2012 11:08 AM ET
UPDATE 5:10PM Wednesday: Halifax city council has directed HRM's bargaining team to take "a new Council-approved proposal" to the ATU and the conciliator Wednesday at 10:30am.

UPDATE 3:35PM Tuesday: ATU president Ken Wilson says the union has prepared a counter offer that it will present to Metro Transit at 9am Wednesday. Wilson will not discuss the details of what the union is offering.

Five days into the transit strike and the two sides still aren't talking to each other, at least not formally. But they are doing a lot of talking to us, using everything from divorce rates to cafeteria food to try to win our support.
As we all know by now, this dispute is about scheduling.
In one of the most unusual arguments ever heard in a labour dispute, Transit Union president Ken Wilson used the marital status of his drivers to justify their refusal to give up the right to choose their shifts. According to Wilson, 80% of his members are divorced, and the added stress of having shifts imposed on them could drive even more to divorce court.


The city responded by using our tax dollars to try to win our allegiance.

Spending $4,000 to purchase ads in local papers, the creative folks down at city hall got us all thinking about lunch.

Using a picture of a delicious looking sandwich, the ad argues the city can't continue to allow its employees to pick their shifts like you pick your lunch in a cafeteria, leaving them scrambling to fill the rice pudding shifts nobody wants.
And then there's city council.

As we were digesting the cafeteria argument, council decided not to meet this week because there wasn't enough to talk about. The collective groan of thousands of angry transit users appears to have convinced councillors, that maybe, there are a few pressing issues out there worthy of their attention. So they will meet on Tuesday after all. After getting a private update on the dispute, councillors will talk about offering an olive branch to transit users who have access to a car, by easing parking restrictions in the downtown core.
But in the end, all of this public posturing - the support rallies, the ad campaigns - will count for little. The strike will, in all likelihood, be settled the same way virtually every other strike is settled: with both sides at the bargaining table, hammering out a deal both sides can live with.
The inconvenient truth is, as anyone who has ever suffered through a strike or lockout knows, getting to that point can sometimes take awhile.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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