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Hamilton transit union votes 95% in favour of strike

Hamilton's transit union has voted overwhelmingly in favour for a strike if talks break down between the union and the City of Hamilton. The 682 transit workers could walk off the job as early as April 9.

Union in legal strike position, could strike as early as April 9 if no deal is struck with city

Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko says recent debates about transit have ignored the issue of climate change (Adam Carter/CBC)

Hamilton's transit union has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike if talks break down between the union and the City of Hamilton. The 682 transit workers could walk off the job as early as April 9, after Sunday's strike mandate was delivered to the union with a 95 per cent vote in favour of walking off the job if no deal surfaces.

"It was a strong message and hopefully the city negotiators get the message loud and clear," said Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 president Eric Tuck Monday morning. "Quite frankly we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there. We've got to turn this bus around or else we're headed for a strike."

In response to the vote, city spokesperson Mike Kirkopoulos said, "We remain optimistic an agreement can be reached. Meetings are schedule for this week."

The strike would not effect the Disabled and Aged Regional Transportation System (D.A.R.T.S.) service, which are not part of the ATU. The two sides will meet on Tuesday and Thursday this week, according to Kirkopoulos.

The strike could cripple transit in the city months before the Pan Am Games come to town July 10 to 26.

The City of Hamilton has already begun the process of creating contingency plans for a potential strike during the Games, not just by transit drivers, but landscapers, garbage collectors, and others. The city is negotiating with four unions in total which all had deals expire on Dec. 31, 2014.

The ATU, which represents 658 bus drivers and mechanics, said the two sides have not yet "scratched the surface" on benefits and have yet to discuss wages. The union said it would not take any claw backs to benefits and is seeking what Tuck called an "industry standard" wage increase of 2 to 2.5 per cent annually. The two sides have been stuck on working conditions. Tuck said the city "has neglected investment in transit in the last number of years."

At the beginning of March, the city added to its request for funding for LRT, asking Queen's Park for $301-million to expand Hamilton Street Rail bus service.

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