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.