Beyond the Headlines

The strike is over but not the hostility

Posted: Mar 14, 2012 11:20 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 14, 2012 11:20 AM ET
The transit strike is over, but it may take more than a few free bus rides to win over the large number of Nova Scotians who had little sympathy for the union and its drivers.
 
In just about every story or column on the strike and its issues, the comment sections were dominated by those who displayed a visceral anger towards the 763 men and women on the picket line.
 
For example, when one reader wrote, "I bet most in HRM will want to end the strike by replacing the union and drivers not the contract", 101 other readers gave the comment a 'thumbs up'. There was only one 'thumbs down'.
 
Now, much of that anger has been turned on the city and its decision to give the workers a $4,000 lump sum payment. Never mind the fact the city basically front-loaded the contract, giving the money up front in exchange for lower wage hikes over the life of the contract (2% in each year instead of the 2.25% offered in the deal that was rejected) and scheduling concessions it says will save them money.
 
For transit users who went a month and-a-half without service, that $4,000 cheque is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. That's all they see.
 
This post by  AngryEasterner was typical of many in our comments section: "A $4,000 signing bonus? WTF! How about the only 'signing bonus' is you have a job and you got raises? Where the heck is the controls by the city over the money...my tax money, your tax money? Where and when is the taxpayer revolt? I'm in. I'm tired of this crap."
 
120 readers gave that post a "thumbs up", only 16 disagreed.
 
So, what is it about this strike and this deal that has struck such a nerve with so many?
 
Sure we all work hard for a living, and we all pay taxes. In fact, in this part-time work economy, many Nova Scotians are forced to work two jobs to support their families. Is that the reason for all this hostility - a perception that the bus drivers have it too easy?
 
I'm not defending the drivers here: blocking Access-A-Buses and snowplows wasn't the smartest PR move in the world. But it's hard to argue with their right to belong to a union, their right to collective bargaining, and even their right to strike if they don't like what their employer is offering.
 
They are no different from nurses, civil servants, even CBC employees. The only difference is the complete lack of empathy from those they serve.
 
Hopefully, both passengers and the drivers will show some civility to each other when the buses hit the road on Friday.

After all, we're Nova Scotians. We're supposed to be polite.
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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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