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City making contingency plans in case of Pan Am labour disruptions

With thousands of city employees currently without contracts and in bargaining, the city is preparing back-up plans in case one of more of its unions— including transit drivers, landscapers, garbage collectors, and others — are on strike for the 2015 Pan Am Games.
Karate athletes help unveil Pachi the porcupine as the new mascot for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in Toronto on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. The games are less than six months from now, and the city of Hamilton has several employee groups without contracts. It's preparing in case there's a strike. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu (Michelle Su/Canadian Press)

The city is working on back-up plans in case one of more of its unions — including transit drivers, landscapers, garbage collectors, and others — are on strike for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

And right now, that’s a possibility.

Hopefully we don’t have any form of disruption, but we are planning.- Gerry Davis, head of public works

Most of the major city unions, representing thousands of city workers are without contracts, including the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 107, which represents about 700 staff, including the city’s bus drivers and mechanics.

The city is working on “contingency plans” in case one or more of the unions is in the midst of labour unrest during the Games, scheduled for July 10 to 26, said Gerry Davis, head of public works. He wouldn’t say what the plans are.

“Hopefully we don’t have any form of disruption, but we are planning,” he said.

Regular meetings planned

At least four other unions are also bargaining with the city right now. Their contracts all expired on Dec. 31. That includes all outside and inside employees such as roads workers, recreation services workers and administrative workers, 3,072 of which are represented by CUPE 5167. CUPE 1041 represents front-line foremen and supervisors.

The Union of Operating Engineers is also without a contract. That includes electrical, refrigeration and maintenance workers, among others.

The city is in regular meetings with the groups. It started meeting with the ATU last week, said Eric Tuck, president of local 107. The two sides meet again on Feb. 2.

“It should never have been left as long as it was,” Tuck said.

Without getting into any specifics, we’ve got a lot of issues to be resolved.- Eric Tuck, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 107

The union wanted to start meeting in the fall, he said, but the Oct. 27 municipal election delayed it. Tuck wants to see an agreement “long before” the Pan Am Games.

“Without getting into any specifics, we’ve got a lot of issues to be resolved," he said.

The transit workers want the city to look good for the Pan Am Games too, Tuck said, and he says the union has no plans to use the games as a bargaining chip.

Sandra Walker, president of CUPE 5167, doesn’t think it’ll be a problem. There are months left to negotiate, she said.

“They always prepare a contingency plan any time a unit goes into bargaining,” she said.

“I don’t see it as being a worry at this present time.”

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) will handle parking and shuttle service during the games. The city asked to be part of the ministry’s procurement to handle seven Pan Am venues, said spokesperson Bob Nichols. But he said it had nothing to do with labour issues.

“Possible labour unrest was not a factor,” Nichols said.

Coralee Secore, the city's manager of Pan Am initiatives, agrees that the labour unrest had nothing to do with the provincial contract. It was cheaper for the city to be included in a broader procurement package than to offer the service itself, she said. 

The city was eyeing First Student Canada to provide the service, Secore said, and the province contracted that company anyway. It wouldn't have been provided by HSR drivers.

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