What A Million Dollars Buys You

I wasn’t going to comment on Marilyn Churley’s paper claiming that each TTC employee contributes $1-million to the local economy, but a remark buried in a long post at Blogto caught my eye. Specifically:

It can be a very useful source of information for pro-transit activists, and helps underscore transit’s importance (which makes sense given Steve Munro and Franz Hartmann were involved in it).

Since I seem to have been “outed” here, and am also thanked for input on page 3 of the report, I need to explain the context.

I cannot speak for Franz Hartmann (of the Toronto Environmental Alliance), but I was approached to review the document when it was in draft form. At that point, it needed a lot of work because of poorly thought out arguments. Some of my input found its way into the final version, some didn’t. I didn’t know the video existed until it appeared online. Finally, I don’t agree with all of the claimed economic benefits of the transit system’s existence — ie things that would simply disappear if there were no transit service.

That said, the problem lies more with the premise, rather than with the calculation. Personally, the TTC saves me a bundle because I can live without a car and my total transportation expense for 2007 was $1098 worth of passes (on subscription), the odd cab fare, and dinner/drinks for friends who provided chauffeur/cartage services.

Many families could not exist without one car given the problems of getting to work in transit-starved suburbia. However, a good transit system can reduce the need for every family to have two or more cars. Alas it won’t reduce road space because the highway system is so overcommitted by demand that any transit gains will only allow backfilling on the roads.

Scale up that sort of benefit across the city, and that’s money in every transit rider’s pocket.

Many of the comments on blogto are extremely one-sided being so directed at the union and the operators. Lousy service is a function of years of underinvestment in transit (new vehicles, more rapid transit) by politicians of every stripe. Lousy service is also caused by mismanagement of what’s there. Yes, some operators take advantage of this by playing games with their schedules, but they are far from the majority of the staff. Political decisions not to buy more buses, to downsize the fleet by 300 vehicles, had nothing to do with the ATU.

For decades, the TTC has claimed that it is powerless to provide better service due to traffic congestion. As reviews of their own vehicle monitoring data have shown here, congestion is only one factor, and the TTC’s solutions, aimed primarily at the core during peak periods, will not solve this problem. Huge gaps in service to the outer ends of lines are caused by bad operating practices in line management.

I agree that Local 113 has overstated its case with Churley’s report, but they don’t deserve the virtiolic remarks aimed at them by many writers. I open this post to comments with trepidation and will tell everyone in advance that I will ruthlessly expunge remarks that don’t address the larger issue of making transit better.

44 thoughts on “What A Million Dollars Buys You

  1. “……some ATU members who claim that we didn’t represent them”

    I won’t get into specifics, but at one point one of the regular drivers on routes I used to take years ago had mentioned these “problems”, legitimate workers who did nothing wrong and being pushed out without proper union intervention. He, like me, is a right-winger and finds that ATU 113 needs a shakeup at the top, and a much better way to weed out “bad apples”.

    “Perplexing, now let me make this clear one more time. My point in my posts was that we represent everyone by law, that even if someone steals which we in the Union find distasteful it is our legal obligation to represent them. My whole point was that regardless what you heard we represent everyone fairly and equally.”

    If it is written by law, then fine. It just bothers me that someone caught “red-handed” stealing could still receive some sort monetary compensation from the TTC (and thus taxpayers). Unless you can assure me that is never the case of course. Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “settlement”.

    “This again is what’s allowed in a democratic society.”

    And in a democratic society, the “other workers” (aka, transit commuters) have a right to be able to get to their destination without disruption, not to mention making a living to put food on the table. I still want to hear from you as to what your opinion is of submitting to binding arbitration.

    I have nothing wrong against the right to strike for unions as long as they do not take the battleground to my backyard. This is why Emergency Services workers (police, paramedics, etc) submit to binding arbitration. In the case of the TTC, the battle is brought to my backyard in the form of traffic congestion, and my fiancee not being able to work and earn a living.

    I expect Rocco to draw up the old “Nobody will die if the TTC goes on strike” comment to counter my argument, but tell that to the single mother who relies on hourly wages to feed her kids.

    “Isn’t sad Steve Munro when these right wingers think that owners of these large corporations would just hand over rights and benefits if it weren’t for Unions.”

    This touches a raw nerve in me, as nothing offends me more than Union Narcissism (the “We’re-Union-Workers-And-We-Do-Everything-The-Best” attitude). What I will only say is that there is a lot of people I know who hold the opinion that while Unions have advanced the cause of workers rights since the last century, they have either gained too much power, or the requirement for unions is no longer necessary in this age. When Unions start trying to influence society itself (TV election ads is one example, though that is freely your right), people will have to wonder who’s running the show? Society or the Unions?

    My belief is the Society has advanced far enough to the point that its members know that they are able to fight for their rights as workers, even without the need of a union. Even at my office, despite my relatively low salary, I enjoy such benefits outside of the standard medical and dental benefits, such as free gym memberships, car allowances, an emergency travel fund, etc. But as Gord said in an earlier post, apparently, the TTC management operates under rulesets from decades earlier, in the 40s and 50s. If this is true, then I concede that TTC management needs to get its act together so they could work with you in settling your grievances. But please, no strike. Binding arbitration and the rest of Toronto will give you guys a big “THANK YOU”.

    Maybe I should hold up a placard which states “STOP TTC STRIKE STRESS NOW”. April 1 is a long way away, but a lot of people I know are showing uneasiness at the prospect of a strike.

    “Steve: At the risk of sounding like I am just trying to drain more money from the public trough for the ATU’s members, I think it only fair to point out that that this “economic engine of the country” has been consistently underfunded both for operating and capital funds for a long time by governments of every political stripe. This has had a far worse impact on the viability and attractiveness of transit than labour disruptions. These issues are linked because the image of slothful, overpaid workers is a convenient one to trot out whenever transit systems ask for more funding.”

    I have no doubts about this and agree with this comment. However, Toronto cannot continue with its pipe dream that somehow, someone in a higher level of government will bail them out somehow. What is needed is bold initiative, and until that happens, don’t hold your breath. Like it or not, we have to deal with what we have, and unfortunately this means tightening the fiscal belt. My image of “slothful, overpaid [public sector city] workers” lies with other parties rather than the TTC. Garbagemen, are you listening?

    Steve: To save a further exchange, I will point out that in cases of dismissal in any union shop, the union goes to bat for the employee especially if the circumstances have the slightest hint of an unfair, unjustified action by management. It is often cheaper just to pay a settlement than to litigate.

    As for criminal cases, the Crown may elect not to prosecute either because there isn’t enough evidence, or their plate is full and they think the case is too minor, or because management doesn’t want the publicity of a trial exposing whatever conditions allowed the event in the first place. This sort of thing can happen in non-union environments too, although generally at senior ranks where the former employee has the means to mount a wrongful dismissal suit.


  2. At the risk of pouring a little bit more fuel onto the fire here, I have a feeling of deja vu developing. This topic is starting to take on the same tone as two topics from July 2007: “Toronto Taxes and the TTC” and “What Driving for the TTC Pays”. I am starting to see some of the same arguments resurfacing in this topic.

    To those who say get rid of the union – it isn’t going to happen. The right to organize and form a union is established and enshrined in the Charter of Rights as well as in Federal and Provincial labour laws. To those who say get rid of Bob Kinnear and the other members of the executive board – it isn’t going to happen. These are DEMOCRATICALLY elected positions. The current local leadership was elected by a large majority – so obviously those of us who actually care enough to vote like what these people are doing on our behalf.

    To “brother” Rocco – it is nice to see you on this blog. To Emily – thank you for your support.

    And as a final note. IF a strike does occur, it would greatly inconvenience my own family as my wife and children all rely on the TTC to get to work and to university. Rocco is correct about actual time lost to TTC strikes at contract time:

    1999 – 2 days (went to arbitration)
    1991 – 8 days (union vote forced by NDP government)
    1978 – 8 days (legislated back to work)
    1974 – 23 days (legislated back to work)
    1970 – 12 days
    1952 – 19 days (first strike since 1921 when TTC was created)

    This information from official TTC history, ATU113 history, and the Toronto Star.


  3. “To those who say get rid of the union – it isn’t going to happen.”

    Would be nice though. As much as I take a hard line on this, I agree that the ATU has the right to represent TTC workers, due to the laws in our country. I could go on about how the unions these days have too much power but it is not going to affect the current labour talks right now.

    As for these talks, the concerns about sick pay appear to be legitimate on its surface, and if so, the TTC should look at how the city pays its Emergency Workers (police, fire, ambulance) for similar situations. Not to say that this should be adopted right away, there is a grand potential of abuse if the TTC goes with the recomendation. Even so, I would rather see this issue sent to binding arbitration, so that we avoid a strike. Kinnear may say “we don’t want a strike”, but it would help the Union a great deal in PR points if they removed any threat to strike from the table.

    “1999 – 2 days (went to arbitration)”

    If I recall correctly, this never went to arbitration, but rather a settlement was reached after marathon bargaining sessions and was later ratified.


  4. I was reading through the Toronto Star and the National Post today and noticed that both papers had articles on the members of the Toronto Police Service who earned over $100,000.00 in 2007. It must be “Sunshine List” time again!

    Just to provide a little background here (as this is sure to be mentioned at TTC Contract negotiation time). The numbers provided last year for 2006 showed 277 TTC employees on the list. Of the 277 employees, 28 were union members (27 from ATU113 and 1 from CUPE local 1). This further broke down as 17 operators, 3 divisional clerks, 5 coach technicians, and 2 lead hands (coach technicians) who are ATU113. The balance of the 277 employees were mainly managers. However, to cheer up Stephen Cheung, 2 of the non-union employees were described as “Senior Database Analyst”.

    I’m sure that a particular columnist at the Toronto Sun is absolutely salivating at the thought of this list being released for 2007 as it will (once again) provide an opportunity to lambaste the TTC and the members of ATU113 during her annual rant and rave about City of Toronto wages and benefits.


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