Guelph bus service suspended after workers reject agreement

Guelph will lock out transit employees starting at midnight on Monday after Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 voted on Sunday to reject the city's latest offer.

ATU Local 1189 head Andrew Cleary surprised by vote

There will be no bus service in Guelph on Monday after transit union members rejected an agreement struck a week ago.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 members voted on Sunday to reject the latest offer by the city, which in turn said it would be locking out employees starting at midnight.

A tentative agreement endorsed by the union's executive had been negotiated in a 13-hour meeting the previous Sunday to avert a lockout that was to begin last Monday.

There's nothing else we can do. The ball's in their court.- Ann Pappert, Guelph CAO

Andrew Cleary, president and business agent of Local 1189, said members rejected the agreement by an "overwhelming" margin. He said he was surprised by the outcome.

"I guess I didn't realize as many issues prevailed out there. These are all many contentious issues with the way this membership feels they’ve been treated over the last, say 12 months," said Cleary. He wasn't willing to elaborate further before meeting with city officials on Monday morning to discuss next steps.

This is the second offer rejected by the union. Ninety-four per cent of those who voted on the first offer on July 11 rejected it.

Guelph's Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert said the latest agreement, which was ratified by council on Tuesday, offered an annual wage increase of 1.7 per cent for four years. The union`s previous collective agreement expired in June of 2013.

In the first rejected offer, as of July 1, 2013, employees would have received a retroactive wage increase of 1.7 per cent. The city offered an increase of 1.6 per cent in 2014, 1.6 per cent in 2015, and 1.5 per cent in 2016.

Pappert said Guelph could not negotiate any further wage increases without affecting bus fares or property taxes.

Pappert added that the city had also signed a letter of understanding with the union, regarding the improvement of working conditions. She referenced the fact that the membership was asking for better bathroom accommodations along their bus routes and a lunch room at Guelph Transit.

"The group on the weekend last Sunday spent 13 hours with the union executive discussing issues of workplace, issues of respect, issues of this agreement itself and sought to get clarity on what we could do," said Pappert. 

"We thought we`d addressed it both with the contract that the membership rejected as well as using a letter of understanding that would normally be outside of the contract and made a commitment to work them through. I'd like to hear some very concrete suggestions"

Transit services are now suspended indefinitely.

"The membership is locked out and we are hoping that they will come back to us and accept the offer. It is what it is," said Pappert. "There's nothing else we can do. The ball's in their court."

Guelph will provide refunds to all riders with bus passes.


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