I always point out to my students that almost all collective bargaining ends without a strike or lockout, but that it seems like strikes and lockouts are very common because we only hear about collective bargaining when it leads to one. Labour relations has been in the media a lot lately because of lockouts at Canada Post, threatened strikes at Air Canada, and now a transit strike in York region. Here is a Toronto Star piece explaining the York transit strike, which will effect York students directly.
A couple of things to note about this one. Firstly, the YRT/VIVA drivers are an unhappy lot. They struck a couple of years ago too. They want parity or close to parity pay with the other transit workers in the GTA. The Star reports that they earn about $7 per hour less. Does it strike you as highly unreasonable for a bus driver in York to want similar pay to a bus driver in Mississauga or Toronto?
Secondly, these are not government employees. The government contracted out transit services to a private companies years ago to try and save money, just like the City of Toronto has just done with garbage collection. Contracting out public services doesn’t prevent work stoppages. These workers don’t like being treated as the cheap, low-paid alternative to the public service workers, and they are fighting back. I wonder if the new private sector garbage collectors, whose bid came in so low that other bidders said they would lose money if they charged so little, will similarly consider unionizing to try and win better working conditions?
Thirdly, you may ask why the TTC is an essential service, and York transit isn’t. That is the current situation under Ontario law. A TTC bus driver idling at a York University bus stop is an “essential worker” [equivalent to a doctor, police officer, and firefighter], but the driver of the VIVA bus idling behind him isn’t. That make any sense to you?
Here is the legislation that makes the TTC an essential service, passed earlier this year.
The Liberal government will say that the TTC is more important to the Ontario economy than any other transit system in Ontario, I presume. [See my earlier post on the myth used in the TTC debates that a TTC strike costs Toronto $50 million per day]. Politics is a better explanation. The City of Toronto asked the province to ban TTC strikes, and the Liberals heading into an election thought it would win them some electoral points in Toronto to do as asked. How long do you think it will take for York politicians and Conservative politicians to start the call for back to work legislation in this York transit strike, and to demand their own legislation making York transit an essential service too?
Should provincial governments declare every bus driver, train driver, and transit ticket collector an essential worker, equivalent to nurses, police, firefighters, and doctors? Do you think these workers should be treated the same in terms of the right to protest through a strike to win better working conditions?