Manitoba

Transit union says city putting bus drivers at risk

The union representing Winnipeg Transit drivers and mechanics says the city has put drivers at risk by releasing details about labour negotiations.

Talks between city, union to resume Friday

The union representing Winnipeg bus drivers and mechanics says the city has put drivers at risk by releasing details about labour negotiations. (CBC)

The union representing Winnipeg Transit drivers and mechanics says the city has put drivers at risk by releasing details about labour negotiations. 

The city said Wednesday the union is asking for a 10.34  per cent hike for drivers and 20.24 per cent for mechanics over three years. 

John Callahan, president and business agent of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, says those numbers reflect the union's proposed three-year-deal, for both drivers and mechanics, that would have meant a 3.25 per cent increase for the first two years, 3.5 per cent in the third and and $1-per-hour yearly top-up for mechanics.

But he says the union's position has changed since then, and it has given up some things it was looking for.

"Since then we met in conciliation and those numbers changed. I mean obviously we had to move and we moved substantially and there was no mention of that in [the city's news release]," he said. "There's no explanation [in the release]. I mean, the way they spun it it makes us look like greedy unionists."

Callahan says Winnipeg bus operators and mechanics are among the lowest paid in Canada. 

He points to figures compiled from the collective agreements of all ATU bargaining units across Canada that show bus drivers in Winnipeg are 24th on the list compared to other major Canadian cities, while mechanics are 29th (see documents attached below).

Union says it's sticking to plan to not deal in public

Callahan won't say what the union's current position is.

He does say though the city has put bus drivers at risk by making negotiations public.

"Even a simple fare increase, when we get a five cent fare increase, it's taken out on the operators," he said Thursday.

"I mean, they're the front line people. They're yelled at, they're spat at, they're punched, because, you know, 'I'm paying your wages' and this type of thing. So here we go again."

Talks with a conciliator are scheduled to resume Friday.

Callahan says he's disappointed with the city's decision to bargain through the media but he wants to be optimistic.

"We're still going to take the high road. We're not going to start flinging mud or anything," he said.

"There's lots that could be said but we still want to get back to the bargaining table, get a fair agreement and get back to serving the citizens of Winnipeg and that's what we're all about. That's what this union is committed to do."

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