York transit workers reject final Veolia offer

Veolia workers have rejected the final offer from their employer, despite York Region Transit's decision to cancel a contract with another company whose workers have also been on strike.
The strike by ATU workers is now in its 13th week. (CBC)

The Amalgamated Transit Union says Veolia workers have "overwhelmingly" rejected the final offer from their employer, despite York Region Transit’s recent decision to cancel a contract with another private company whose workers have also participated in the ongoing strike.

Veolia is one of several companies that provides transit services in York Region under contract. It operates five Viva bus routes in Newmarket, Aurora, Richmond Hill, Markham and Vaughan.

Its employees have been on strike since Oct. 24, along with transit workers from First Canada and Miller Transit, two companies that also have contracts with the municipality.

All of the striking employees are members of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

On Tuesday, 177 Veolia workers gathered at the Monte Carlo Inn in Vaughan, to vote on their final offer.

Three in four rejected the offer, with a total of 133 ATU Local 113 members voting against it.

ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear said members were willing to "reject an inferior offer even though they have been on strike for three months."

The Veolia workers’ vote came just a day after York Region Transit cancelled its contract with First Canada, a bus company that operates 29 local routes.

YRT move could get York transit running again

YRT said there's a clause in the contract that allows it to terminate the agreement if a labour dispute remains unresolved for more than 30 days.

"For the last couple of months we've been encouraging both sides to sit at the table, have meaningful negotiations and it's come to a point where we realize that's just not happening. We terminated the contract with the contractor, First Canada, and we're reaching out to other to provide service in the region," said Rick Leary, the general manager of YRT.

Leary said he hopes at least the Yonge Street route will be back in operation by Feb. 5.

The municipality is in negotiations with another transit company to take over the First Canada contract — but what happens to the drivers who work for First Canada remains unclear.

"Well the drivers work for that company — I'm not sure what rights the drivers have with that company — but they'll have to deal with that," said Bill Fisch, the chairman and CEO of York Region.

The other bus companies have been given until Friday to explain how they're trying to end the strike and put employees back to work.

But the union representing the striking workers says what YRT is doing is a bullying tactic — especially since the workers for Veolia voted on their latest contract proposal on Tuesday.

Following Tuesday’s vote, Kinnear called the timing of the First Canada contract decision "suspect" and he said the union would soon serve York Region with an unfair labour practices complaint.

"Fisch's tactic of firing one of the contractors in an attempt to intimidate our members did not work," Kinnear said.