STM bus drivers, Metro operators vote 99% in favour of strike mandate

The union representing 4,500 STM drivers and Metro operators has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate.

Drivers' vote comes day after STM maintenance workers said yes to overtime strike

Union president Renato Carlone said construction, different speed limits and an increase in cyclists on the road are making bus timetables unreasonable and leading to illness among union members. (Radio-Canada)

The union representing 4,500 STM drivers and Metro operators voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate Thursday.

Pressure tactics that could extend all the way into a general strike were approved by 99 per cent of the union's membership.

"The management of the STM is not respectful of the 4,500 employees who provide millions of trips for Montrealers," said union president Renato Carlone.

The union said the main stumbling point in negotiations was the amount of time the STM allocates for bus trips.

It said that drivers have to work under increasingly complex conditions — like manoeuvring around construction sites, sharing the road with a growing number of cyclists, and different speed limits.

"A bus driver today is driving at the speed limit, and is guaranteed to be late at the end of their line," Carlone told CBC News.

He said workers are ill as a result of these stresses.

The union will next week launch an ad campaign highlighting these issues. 

"We're in this battle with the commuters," Carlone said.

STM ticket-booth operators Michel Laplume, Yanick Tardy and Stéphane Blouin, members of the STM drivers union, showed up to vote Thursday on whether to give the union a strike mandate. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

A spokesperson for the union, Lisa Djevahirdjian, told CBC News earlier in the day that the vote was staggered so more members could cast their ballot. 

She called the turnout "overwhelming."

Drivers are fed up, she said, but a strike mandate would not mean an immediate strike. It just gives the union the mandate to launch pressure tactics.

The drivers' vote comes one day after the union representing 2,400 maintenance workers announced its members will refuse to work overtime for six days, from May 7 to 12.

Like the maintenance workers, the drivers and operators have been without a contract since January.

STM executive director Luc Tremblay said that next week's overtime strike by maintenance workers will have sporadic and minimal impact on regular service.

There could be more disruptions as the week progresses, however, if buses in need of repairs end up waiting parked in the garage.

The union representing STM drivers and Metro operators said 1,300 members came out to vote Thursday morning alone. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

With files from CBC's Navneet Pall and Sudha Krishnan