STM seeks essential services ruling to block possible transit strike Friday

Quebec's labour tribunal is holding a rare evening hearing Thursday to hear the public transit authority's case against any plans maintenance workers might have to walk off the job during an expected snowstorm Friday.

Wildcat strike Thursday prompted by STM head saying delays were maintenance workers' fault, says their union

The STM is encouraging public transit users to check its social media accounts Friday for any service delays, although it doesn't foresee any. (Luc Lavigne/Radio-Canada)

Quebec's administrative labour tribunal is holding a rare Thursday evening hearing to hear the public transit authority's case against any plans maintenance workers might have to walk off the job during an expected snowstorm Friday.

The hastily organized essential services hearing follows a wildcat strike by about 500 STM maintenance workers between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

"We were thinking that negotiations were going quite well," STM executive director Luc Tremblay said.

"Last night we were still negotiating with the union, so we were kind of surprised this morning by what happened."

STM executive director Luc Tremblay said negotiations with the union are continuing, and Thursday's wildcat strike came as a surprise. (CBC)

The union, the STM-CSN, said the strike was spontaneous and had not been organized or sanctioned by the labour group.

It said the workers walked off the job in response to an interview Tremblay gave to the French-language network TVA in which he blamed workers for delays.

"The executive director puts all the problems on the backs of the employees, but we have nothing to do with them," said Gleason Frenette, the STM-CSN president.

The union said no action is planned for Friday.

Just in case, the STM encourages public transit users to check social media channels for any delays, especially with a winter storm expected.

Previous strikes

Maintenance workers have been seeking to reduce the number of overtime hours they work.

The union launched legal overtime strikes last May, June and August.

The maintenance workers union was responsible for transit strikes in 2003 and 2007.

The 2007 strike ended just before a deadline imposed by the province, which was set to adopt back-to-work legislation.

-With files from CBC's Matt D'Amours