Kitchener-Waterloo

No new talks planned between region, union representing GRT workers

After negotiations broke off between the region and Unifor Local 4304 Wednesday afternoon, both parties say they are open to continue negotiations, but no further talks have been scheduled yet.

GRT workers have been on strike since Tuesday, negotiations broke off Wednesday afternoon

Grand River Transit workers represented by Unifor stand in front of the Region of Waterloo administration building on Tuesday after going on strike at 5 a.m. The workers rejected a tentative agreement from the region during a vote on Sunday. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Both the region and the union representing Grand River Transit workers say they are open to continue negotiations, but no further talks have been scheduled yet.

The region and Unifor Local 4304 went back to the bargaining table Wednesday morning, but negotiations broke off later in the day.

The talks ended "as it became clear that the employer was not willing to offer new proposals," the union said in a release. 

Mike Murray, chief administrator officer with the Region of Waterloo, said the region was "extremely disappointed" that negotiations broke off.

Unifor also requested the presence of regional chair Karen Redman and Murray on Wednesday at the bargaining table. When asked why, Tim Jewell, president of Unifor Local 4304, said he was not prepared to comment.

GRT workers have been on strike since Tuesday after rejecting a tentative agreement during a vote on Sunday.

Buses, the BusPlus service and MobilityPlus are all affected by the strike.The LRT continues regular service.

'We're out here for a reason'

Jewell says the union is fighting for "a safer working environment and a reduction in disciplines" although declined to detail specific safety concerns.

He said worker's moods on the picket lines continues to be "very positive" and they're receiving support from people who wave or honk as they pass by.

For people who may be directly impacted and feeling frustrated by the strike, Jewell says he hopes they'll understand things from the workers' perspective.

"They are people. They're trying to provide for their families. They're trying to get home safe at night and during the day. And that's why they're out there, standing strong," he said.

"I think it's very, very important that people realize these are our drivers, our members, are people, too. They have all the same thoughts and stresses and fears as everybody else. And they want everybody to understand that we're out here for a reason."

He added that going on strike is not something the workers took lightly.

"To go on strike, there's a financial cost to that," he said. "They're used to getting paid a certain amount of money and right now it's not happening. And that's something, I'm sure, has been very stressful for some of them, for all of us."

Region to install safety barriers

Earlier this week, the region said it offered a "comprehensive settlement" which included a six per cent wage increase over three years for bus drivers, dispatchers and service attendants, and a 15 per cent increase over three years for mechanics.

The region also issued a release saying it will meet a request by the workers to install safety barriers on all 278 buses, which is set to start this year.

If the strike continues into the weekend, Jewell said they plan to picket at Fairview and Conestoga Malls.

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