Saskatoon transit workers launch legal action over lockout

Saskatoon transit workers are taking legal action against the city over a lockout, union officials say. The move came just hours after city council passed a bylaw to alter the city's pension plan.

City locked out its transit union Saturday night following unsuccessful bargaining

Jim Yakubowski, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615, speaks at a special city council meeting today. (Albert Couillard/CBC)

Saskatoon transit workers are taking legal action against the city over a lockout, union officials say.

The move came just hours after city council passed a bylaw to alter the city's pension plan. The city locked out transit workers Saturday after claiming that negotiations for a new collective agreement, including changes to the pension plan, had reached an impasse.

"We have filed an injunction against the city of Saskatoon through our lawyer," Jim Yakubowski, president of Local 615 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, told members in a message Monday afternoon. "We've also filed an unfair labour practice against the city of Saskatoon and an application for interim relief of this unlawful lockout."

In his message, Yakubowski added that actions of city council, to change elements of the city pension plan, could be overturned.

"What we've applied for today ... has the potential to declare what they did to us today illegal," he said.

Earlier in the day, at a special meeting, Saskatoon City Council unanimously​ passed changes to its general pension plan.

The move would force transit workers to accept the pension the city is offering, which would lead to employees and the city each contributing more to the pension plan. The city claims the pension plan is in a deficit, which the union disputes.

According to the city, however, the plan's valuation was not a matter of debate. It said that the deficit has been triple checked and verified by a third party review. 

The city and union have been at odds trying to negotiate a contract for months, and the pension plan and worker wages have been the major sticking points in that process. 

The lockout has meant no bus service, except for the Access Transit for disabled people, across the city.

"Certainly our members are disappointed that the city would impose upon us conditions that we haven't collectively bargained fairly," Yakubowski, said shortly after the meeting of city council. His message of a court challenge followed a couple of hours later.

Saskatoon's mayor, Don Atchison said he is hoping city managers and the union resume talks.

"I'm certainly wanting everyone to get back to the table again," he said. "We want to sign a contract. Not only for the citizens of Saskatoon, but for our employees, and for all our riders."

Atchison added he hopes the lockout will be ended before snow falls.

HR director says City can force changes

IATSE fully supports locked out transit workers and questions its deal with the city. (Peter Mills/CBC)
The City of Saskatoon's Human Resources Director, Marno McInnes said it is possible for the city to change the pension plan, with only council voting on the matter.

"We reached an impasse [at negotiations], we've now initiated a lockout and once that happens the collective agreement  basically is terminated," McInnes said. "And we then have the ability to make changes such as this."

McInnes added the move was reviewed by city lawyers.

"We've obviously consulted with our legal experts on this topic and we're perfectly doing things within the available rights under the laws."

View tweets from the Saskatoon City Council's special meeting.

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