City of Saskatoon will comply with labour board decision

The City of Saskatoon says it will comply with a Labour Relations Board order to lift the transit lockout.

Administrators will meet with union tomorrow

Saskatoon Transit driver Roanne Olfert said she is "elated" after finding out that the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board deemed the lockout illegal. 1:23

The City of Saskatoon says it will comply with a Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board order to lift the transit lockout.

In a tweet sent out around 7 p.m. CST, the City said it would be meeting with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) tomorrow morning to talk about how to implement the order.

The board ruled today that the Saskatoon Transit lockout is illegal because an unresolved unfair labour practice case was before the board at the time the lockout was issued.

In addition, the labour board's decision stated that the city unlawfully made changes to the conditions of employment, benefits and privileges of the union when an application was pending before the board. Changes to the union's pension were made during a special meeting of city council on September 22. 

The labour board ordered the city to pay compensation to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) members. 

It's still not known whether the City will instate another lockout order, or whether it plans to appeal the decision.

City officials are expected to talk to reporters tomorrow.

City, union react

Earlier, the City of Saskatoon said it was surprised and disappointed by the ruling. The city issued a press release following the decision. 

“We are surprised and disappointed at the Labour Board’s ruling. This decision flies in the face of 70 years of law in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately today’s ruling is also another distraction.  It gets us no closer to solving any of the contract issues and in fact, the ruling has serious long-term implications," the press release quoted city solicitor Patricia Warwick.

ATU president Jim Yakubowski talks with locked out Saskatoon Transit workers in front of city hall this morning. (Steve Pasqualotto/CBC)
The city said it believes the lockout was legal. The workplace complaint was not pending, it said, because the complaint had not yet been heard at a formally constituted meeting of the labour board and therefore, not "pending before the board."

"We are ready to go back to work right now," Yakubowski told CBC News shortly after the decision was announced. 

"We're ecstatic that the labour board has made the ruling the way they put forth. The law is the law and essentially our members are ecstatic at the opportunity to come back to work."

The city can issue a lockout with 48-hours notice. The union would also be free to issue strike notice. 

Bus driver reaction

Standing on the picket line in front of city hall, transit driver Roanne Olfert said she was "elated" by the news. 

"I can't wait to look at my passengers in the eye and say 'I love you, and I'm back," she said, close to tears. "I love my job."

Susan Southern was feeling optimistic this morning on the picket line. 

"We're feeling fantastic," she said. "It's a great day and we've been waiting a long time for this."

Expert weighs in

Dionne Pohler, a public policy professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said the labour board decision is just a small, temporary win for the union. 

"Until both sides decide to change their approach to what's happening in terms of this labour dispute, and really get back to the the bargaining table, and really seriously consider the interests of both sides, and work towards an agreement — I think everybody is losing."

Back and forth 

The ATU and the city were in front of the board Tuesday outlining their views on the legality of the lockout.

The union said the lockout is illegal, because it was filed while there was an unfair labour practice case before the board. The ATU said the legislation is very clear, saying that all labour action must be stopped while there are any related cases before the board.

The city argued that the unfair labour practice in question had nothing to do with the lockout notice or any attempts to reach a collective agreement.

Talks were on hold as both sides awaited a ruling from the labour board.