Three Conservative MPPs from the Vaughn region have introduced a Private Members’ Bill calling for the transit strike in Vaughn to ended by back to work legislation.
Here is the proposed Bill (Bill 3).
The proposed legislation has zero chance of being enacted, since neither the Liberals nor the NDP members will support it. The Liberals may introduce their own back to work legislation at some point, though they continue to say that they will let the parties work it out themselves. In this case, the union and the workers would love to end the strike and go to interest arbitration, but the three private corporations involved would prefer the strikes continue. Governments tend to find back to work legislation less palatable when the employer opposes it.
This private members’ Bill is unusual in a number of respects. Firstly, it would not not only end the current work stoppages, it would also prohibit future work stoppages at the three employers involved (in Section 4). The idea is to treat transit services in Vaughn in the same way we now treat transit services in Toronto–no right to strike or lockout. I’ve argued before that there is no principled basis for treating employees of the TTC differently than employees of all the other transit companies in Ontario. The Liberals will have a difficult time explaining their differential treatment of transit work stoppages from municipality to municipality. Transit is no less essential to Vaughn residents than it is to Torontians. But the Liberals have embarked down this road, so we will let them explain why transit is “essential” in some places, but not others.
This crazy Bill prevents work stoppages at three named employers (First Student Canada; Miller Transit, Ltd. and Veolia Transportation, Inc). Therefore, if one of those contractors is later replaced with a different contractor, the Bill would not apply to the new contractor. That seems pretty stupid.
The Bill also lists criteria for the arbitrator to consider, as is the Tory way. Check this out:
(2) In making an award, the arbitrator shall take into consideration all factors it considers relevant, including the following criteria:
1. The employer’s ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation.
2. The extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the decision or award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased.
3. The economic situation in Ontario and York Region.
4. A comparison, as between the employees and other comparable employees in the public and private sectors, of the terms and conditions of employment and the nature of the work performed.
5. The employer’s ability to attract and retain qualified employees.
6. The purposes of the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act, 1997.
These criteria make no sense given that we are dealing with three huge foreign multinational corporations. The “employer” is not the local government (as in the TTC’s case). Vaughn transit services comprise a very tiny part of the business of these three foreign corporations.
Why would the economic situation in Ontario and York Region, or the tax rates in Vaughn, have any relevance whatsoever to the ability of a huge Illinois-based private multinational corporation to give a raise to a tiny portion of its workforce in a Toronto suburb?
Why would that giant multinational corporation have to cut any services in Vaughn just because the government of Vaughn decides not to raise local taxes? I assume the contract for services negotiated by the municipality would require the transit companies to maintain a certain level of services. An arbitrated raise might cut into the profit margins of the private corporations who must provide those services, but that is the risk of running this sort of business. The point of contracting out public services is to pass along that risk to the private sector. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Criterium two is provocative, but pointless. It says an arbitrator must consider what would happen if the government decided not to put any additional money into public transit. But so what. There is no reason why the government should or must decide to freeze funding and tax rates. So after “considering’ that possible scenario, the arbitrator could go on and consider an alternative scenario: What if the government does increase funding in order to comply with the arbitration award? Or: What if we let the huge multinational corporations that are receiving public funds in order to provide a public service worry about complying with the arbitration award?