Beyond the Headlines

Transit strike tactics

Posted: Mar 5, 2012 12:52 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 5, 2012 12:52 PM ET
The Amalgamated Transit Union has finally found a way get the public really angry --  I'm talking frothing-at-the-mouth mad -- about this strike.
It wasn't the decision to temporarily block the Access-A-Bus service - although that didn't win them any points.
People were disappointed when the union overwhelmingly rejected the city's "final" offer, although most would agree it was their democratic right to do so.
But the decision to block snowplows from leaving the Burnside garage for about ten minutes this morning has created a firestorm. We posted our story on the incident online at just before 9am. By noon there were 144 comments.
As you might expect, there isn't a lot of support for the union's tactics.
Here's a sampling of the comments to give you feel for the general tone of the discussion.
One wrote " Blocking snow plows after a snowfall??!! Why not block ambulances and police cars while you're at it...and firetrucks??!!! Wow, unbelievable disregard for public safety and civil society." 
Another writes, " Enough is enough. Declare transit an essential service, and get the buses on the road."
I think you get the idea. 
But this may be exactly what the union wants. With its members walking the picket lines for more than a month, with no end in sight,  you have to ask yourself what the union has to lose with tactics like blocking snowplows?
The union leadership already knows it doesn't have a lot of public support. Negotiations are going nowhere. Council refuses to consider binding arbitration, and as of this morning, the provincial government is refusing to consider back to work legislation.
Is it a coincidence that just this morning ATU president Ken Wilson challenged city council to hold an open vote at tomorrow's meeting on whether to send this dispute to binding arbitration? Maybe, but at this point the union may decide the best way out of this dispute is to get the public so angry that it demands the city, or the province, take whatever action necessary to end the strike.
And if that means back to work legislation, and/or binding arbitration, so be it.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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