Transit battle heats up, as ATU files complaint with city's integrity commissioner

The Amalgamated Transit Union has filed a complaint with the city's integrity commissioner alleging the chief corporate services officer violated the code of conduct policy

Union representing transit workers says senior bureaucrat violated code of conduct

Thousands of students may be looking for a lift if a strike or lockout is called. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Another volley has been fired in the contract dispute between the City of Winnipeg and the union representing transit workers.

The complaint is a direct shot at Michael Jack, the city's chief corporate services officer.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 has asked the city's integrity commissioner to investigate violations of Winnipeg's code of conduct and wants Jack put on paid leave while it's being done. 

Jack announced Thursday Winnipeg Transit staff will no longer be able to request shift trades or vacation switches for the remainder of the year and they will be assigned day off groups and schedules when the fall schedule comes into effect on Sept. 1. 

In its letter to integrity commissioner Sherri Walsh, the ATU says the move intimidates and harms workers and is a violation of the city's code of conduct.

ATU president Aleem Chaudhary says the city's move Thursday to change scheduling for transit workers is 'intimidation.' (Gary Solilak CBC)

"We believe that the conduct of the City of Winnipeg in the previous 24 hours constitutes a misuse of authority and has caused several of our members to feel intimidated working with the City of Winnipeg," wrote ATU president  Aleem Chaudhary in the complaint.

In an interview with CBC News, Chaudhary said his members rely on the existing shift scheduling system to manage their personal and work lives and the city's announcement on Thursday has left workers scrambling to sort it out.

"[This] has given a hard time for our members, because their lives revolve around the shift work that they do, to be able to take care of their families, their children," Chaudhary said.

Chaudhary says one senior city administrator went too far.

"We believe that Michael Jack directly tried to intimidate our members," Chaudhary said.

David Driedger, the city's manager of corporate communications, told CBC News "the city is not aware of a complaint filed by the ATU against Michael Jack."

The ATU's complaint says Michael Jack, the city's chief corporate services officer, should be placed on paid leave while the integrity commissioner investigates. (CBC)

The ATU may want the city's integrity commissioner to investigate, but according her, that would take a vote of city council.

"As integrity commissioner I have no jurisdiction to consider investigating a matter under the employee code of conduct, unless I was specifically authorized or directed by city council," Walsh told CBC News.

Ready for a strike?

Meanwhile, groups representing some of Winnipeg Transit's 170,000 daily weekday riders are starting to mull the consequences of a potential service disruption.

Staff at many businesses rely on the bus, as do residents to shop or get to medical appointments.

Perhaps one group most affected by a potential strike — or lockout of transit workers by the city — are students.

University of Manitoba Student Union president Jakob Sanderson says any sort of transit stoppage would be "really really big" for students at the U of M.

Sanderson estimates 14,000-15,000 students use the bus daily and UMSU is making some plans in case they stop running.

"We would encourage biking more and we are in talks with the university right now trying to get more lockers on campus for cyclists. There's also carpooling programs such as Go Manitoba where it automatically pairs you up with drivers and riders for carpooling," Sanderson said.

Representatives of student associations at both the University of Winnipeg and Red River College say they are very concerned about the effect a strike or lockout would have on students, but neither organization has started working on plans to cope with no transit service.



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