Back on Track

I was walking east on Bloor Street not too long ago expecting to come all the way over to Broadview.  As I came to Sherbourne Street, what do I see?  Open doors on the station and the sound of a train rushing through.

I walked downstairs, swiped my pass and then went down to the eastbound platform.  After a short wait, along came a train and I rode over to my home station, Broadview.  Upstairs, I found a King and Dundas car waiting to leave and a few buses roaming the streets.  It felt very much like the start of service in the morning.

It’s good to see the system back up again and “showing the flag” before tomorrow’s commute.

As I’ve said before, I am deeply disappointed in the behaviour of Local 113’s leadership (assuming anyone can even figure out who that is), and reports that they have a shopping list of added items for arbitration shows just how badly things were out of whack with the original “agreement”.

I am going to close off comments on the previous, strike-related thread just to keep that from growing completely out of control.  Please leave any new comments here.

52 thoughts on “Back on Track

  1. Welcome back TTC. While I may not agree with how it was handled, I don’t have all the inside details and will not pretend to be able to judge until they are disclosed. I will endeavor to believe that the employees I deal with are part of the 33% who voted to accept the agreement, and greet them with a thankyou as I get on the bus, the same as I did every time previously.



  2. Back-to-work legislation is a brute force solution to an admittedly ugly labour relations problem, but I can tell you from personal experience that a transit strike is not much fun for passengers left in the lurch. Out here, the memories of 2001’s seven-week transit strike, with its concomitant five-mile yomps to work and back and its hundreds of dollars in foul-weather cab fares, are still fresh in our civic consciousness:

    ATU: We want more money and a better pay scale for mini-shuttle drivers, or we’re downing tools for seven weeks!
    Mayor: Fine! All in favour of an encounter session in Rio to drum and sing “Kumbaya”?
    ATU: Woo-hoo!
    Me: D’oh!

    This experience may in part explain the change in heart towards our drivers’ strike threat in 2007:

    ATU: We want more money and a better pay scale for mini-bus drivers, or we’re downing tools on the day of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference!
    Mayor: Fine! All in favour of locking out the drivers until spaghetti sticks to the moon?
    Me: Woo-hoo!
    ATU: D’oh!

    No-one’s going to begrudge a bus or C-Train driver a decent living wage and benefit packet, especially in an environment where the unemployment rate is running round about three percent and the revenue passenger population is growing like Topsy. The moment a rider feels behostaged in some labour negotiation, though, and–well, the Groan and Wail’s yenta board* on the TTC strike speaks for itself. We’ve put too much capital and social stock in mass transit to see it sit idle in some petty squabble over chump change–and on that point I’m pretty sure the Cowtowner and the Hogtowner are going to see eye-to-eye.

    * Sorry ’bout the completely gratuitous Harlan Ellison reference.


  3. With the way this contract was voted down after the Union head recommended acceptance and only the head honcho even signing on to the deal a person has to wonder if trouble within the union isn’t being stored up for the future. As far as making the TTC an essential service is concerned, everything I’ve read, heard and seen leads me to believe that this is no panacea at all. They know that quite well in Montreal and New York City.


  4. If Kinnear was so worried about verbal and physical abuse, the union’s actions have ensured it will be several times worse on Monday. I wouldn’t be surprised if a large number of drivers and collectors called in sick tomorrow. I sure would.


  5. Would I be out of my mind to suggest Mr. Kinnear should be charged with Public Endangerment? While he had every right to call a strike, he also had a responsibility to the transit using public. Because of this, he left many young people stranded downtown with no way to get home. It is fortunate that there weren’t reports of muggings and assaults while people waited for a bus that never came, especially in more dangerous corners of the city.

    Mr. Kinnear has shown time and time again that he is not responsible enough to use his union leadership responsibilities. This time it directly put many people of the public at risk, and I feel he should be charged and tried accordingly.


  6. I am still not happy despite this recent turn of events.

    Okay so the insurance will cover the accident and I have been outfitted with a nice rental car, but the point being is that this mess should have never happened in the first place. Contract voted down? Fine. Potential strike back on radar? Fine. But the way this was carried out meant that this was a powderkeg waiting to happen. I’m surprised that a riot didn’t occur downtown in the Entertainment district.

    As a very irate member of the public I am looking for some form of jurisprudence for this mess. I want Bob Kinnear’s head on a platter. Period. This is the second time he has pulled a stunt like this, and after hearing the news on Friday, part of me was not surprised that he would have the audacity to pull off this crap. This shows that this guy has to be punished, harshly. I could say a lot of very harsh words to this person right now, but saying those would most likely get me arrested for threatening.

    As for David Cavlovic’s comments regarding OCTranspo, I would hope that the province would pass legislation that bans all public transit strikes in Ontario. That should cover Ottawa’s rear quite nicely. When I go back to Ottawa for my wedding, I certainly do not want to see a mess like what happened to the TTC hitting my hometown.

    And finally, I hear about the absolute outrageous demands ATU has placed on the TTC in contract talks yesterday. Great, not only do these people have the furniture and the clothes off our back, but now our dignity has just been stomped into the ground. Why don’t you steamroll the public while we’re down, huh?

    I hope the mediator appointed to this sticks to the side of the TTC management and binds a contract which gives MAJOR concessions from the Union. This will teach the ATU 113 not to mess with the wrath of Torontonians. Not that I doubt that would happen, this is not a good time for the arbitrator to give in to the union’s demands, but that is what I expect. Where is the fairness anyway these days?


  7. The strike is over. Our friends, the TTC Operators are back at work providing the cheerful service that they always do. Thank You Dale for your positive comment. I will join you by saying Thank You getting on and off any streetcar or bus. Anyone who takes out their frustration on an Operator is bigger jerk than Bob Kinnear. Lets all smile and say Thank You tomorrow.


  8. I just came across this from the website.

    It just looks like the union does not believe in modern rules of meritocracy and coming up with the absolute worst case scenario. Modern employers are loathe to do anything like this lest they be hauled to the courts with an expensive lawsuit.

    Steve: Note that the linked page was last updated in August 2007. This material was not posted in response to the current situation.

    Also, spacing links to the ATU’s contact page, not to the decertification info page, and the link is part of a reader’s comment.


  9. I like the word “behostaged”. Frankly almost all of the anger comes from the fact that many riders felt utterly trapped, and utterly powerless to do a damn thing about it. People don’t like feeling utterly powerless to control a situation, especially when that situation is a need and not just a want. When people start to feel this way things get ugly. This is the same emotion that sparks political revolutions around the world. I’m not saying that Torontonians will declare independence from the TTC, but the fact that some in the ATU cannot see the very powerful and dangerous emotions that they have stirred up is disappointing.

    I for one am not so angry anymore – as I no longer feel “behostaged”. Though I have debated throwing 6 cents into the farebox (1/48th of a cash fare) and seeing if I’d get challenged (I note that I carry a metropass, and if challenged, I’d display it) to make a point. I figure it’s a much more peaceful way to make a point then to yell at or assault a driver (the first of which is pointless, and the second is wrong regardless of the situation)


  10. also, that was the last I plan to say on the strike here (yes, I realize I talk too much!)

    Steve: Some addictions are hard to break.


  11. I was at the ROM for the Hot Docs festival (working), thinking to myself, how am I going to go back and how flakey is my ride back to Scarborough, also how the ice cream truck is not there the day I work then and it’s in front of the ROM on University when I am passing by to walk to the Bloor cinema.

    Anyways, I turn around and what do I see? a 5 Avenue Road bus heading south…that ALMOST makes it up for the ice cream truck not being anywhere near the ROM.

    I do a dance (with everyone around me looking like I am a nut).

    I end my final shift at around 22:30 and then go up to Bloor Street and walk east to Yonge (I have no idea why I didn’t just get on Museum, St. George or Bay).

    I felt like when I was 5 and opened my first christmas gift.

    Why do I have a feeling that the drivers will get spat on in ‘revenge’?

    There is 2-3 facebook groups about ‘revenge’/’strike’ against the ttc.

    p.s. Last strike was an illegal one……would you have any idea what makes a strike illegal or legal?

    Steve: A strike is legal once the current contract has expired, a strike vote by the members has authorized this action, and a “no board” report has been filed with the Ministry of Labour stating that the parties cannot come to a settlement.

    The previous one-day strike was illegal because there was a valid contract in place and, therefore, the union was in breach of contract to withdraw service.


  12. It is one thing for there to be a strike in a competitive market. If the union at GM goes on strike, I’ll buy a Toyota. That provides an incentive for both sides to settle.

    But the TTC has a monopoly on public transit in Toronto. As many have commented, the big losers in the TTC strike are the general public.

    Right now we have de facto “essential service” status. For many years now, the provincial government has stepped in to end TTC strikes. And everyone know that they will continue to do so no matter which party is in power at Queen’s Park.

    In my opinion it is time to recognize this reality and legally remove local 113’s right to strike.


  13. Effectively the TTC now has the best of both worlds. Any strike will be ended by government, but it doesn’t have to pay its workers as if they provided an essential service. Why would the TTC want to be declared essential?

    The idea (here and elsewhere) seems to be that the ATU should have the right to strike only as long as the strike is ineffective, and only after their social betters have approved it. Furthermore, the TTC is to be under no restrictions at all in dealing with employees. What motivation does it have to bargain when it knows there will be no strike? So expect more labour problems, not fewer, and more wildcats.

    Steve: The crucial factor we don’t know at this point is the degree to which the strike was triggered by misinformation either from rumours or from a deliberate attempt to foment “no” votes. One major advantage of an arbitration environment is that both sides have to put their positions, all of them, on the table up front rather than finding new reasons not to agree every week or so. This applies both to labour and to management. In this round, the union screwed up, but the TTC’s doesn’t have an unblemished record on the management side.


  14. About the comment above by M. Greason: “Anyone who takes out their frustration on an Operator is bigger jerk than Bob Kinnear.”

    The union brags about how it is such a democratic institution … just who do you think voted in Mr. Kinnear?

    Steve: The real question is 65 percent of what? How many members actually voted? How many assumed it would be approved and didn’t bother? In the union elections, how many attend the meetings and vote for the executive? It’s no different a situation from a federal government being elected by a minority of the electorate, and everyone complaining about the outcome.


  15. Now that I have cooled down somewhat from this mess, allow myself to comment on what I have been reading about.

    First of, yes that link was from a reader’s comment, and out of curiousity, despite the fact that the ATU 113 is on my black list, I took a look. A neighbour was with me at the time and we browsed the website together. We cannot imagine the crap that goes on with regards to what the union is saying (never mind that this may have been true AGES ago). Any modern employer would be out of their mind to offer minimum wage to someone driving a bus. We are so far removed from the slave wages of the past that I am at a loss as to why ATU 113 would have this scare page up.

    Secondly, the fact that I am hearing that the strike is the byproduct of union infighting at the top (not so much at Bob Kinnear, but at the Maintenance Head, Kevin Morton) points to increasing evidence of the uselessness of the modern union. Back then, a union was a beacon of stability in an work environment marred by infighting. And if even now the union itself is immersed in infighting, what does that tell us about the ability of a union to function in modern times?

    Scrapping the union is perhaps the biggest step in promoting workplace stability in modern times of employment.


  16. Kevin: Buy a car/bike? If you live near reliable GO Transit, take that?

    It seems to me a lot of people would be happy if transit workers could strike, so long as they gave adequate notice. I’ve said it a thousand times, I’ll say it again; if you want these people making substantially more money then they do now, make them an essential service.

    If they had gone on strike last Monday, we wouldn’t have been anywhere near as pissed off as we are. Remember that.

    Bob Kinnear is on CP24 at 11. This should be fun. Maybe Ann Rohmer grows a backbone. Maybe not, but it’s a nice thought.


  17. In an appropriate display of irony, the back-to-work legislation was given Royal Ascent next door to Union Station, at a lacross game at the ACC. Talk about an unprecedented Sunday.

    After reports of Saturday’s meeting tell tale of the union making “a long, expensive list” of demands according to CGM Gary Webster, Bob Kinnear is still in hiding. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s fleeing the city, but only time will tell.

    Steve: In fact, Bob Kinnear was on Metro Morning today, and according to a previous comment, was scheduled to be on CP24 a few hours ago. If you listen to the Metro Morning podcast, you will find that he hasn’t changed the message one bit, but at least he is happy with the Arbitrator.


  18. I am appalled at how the Union leadership called a strike on such short notice on Friday night. And I am glad that back to work legislation was brought in so quickly. A transit union should not have the power to inconvenience Torontonians to this degree.

    At the same time, I am concerned that this move by the Province at the urging of the City plays fast and loose with the collective bargaining process. The TTC has yet to be declared an essential service and as such the Union was in a legal strike position. There’s been a lot of speculation about how bone-headed the union members must be to have rejected this deal. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. (I won’t offer an opinion since I only know the detail of the deal from media reports.) However, to accept it or reject it was their decision to make — and under the existing collective bargaining rules, they were entitled to strike. As for the 48-hours notice that had been promised when the tentative deal was being struck, this was never an obligation on the Union’s part, but a courtesy. While I am angry that the Union leaders did not provide this courtesy to the public (or to their own members on duty) on Friday, I also recognize that they are not required to provide such notice.

    As for the politicians involved, I do think they have a duty to ensure that an essential service such as the TTC continues to run smoothly, and as such should have acted a long time ago to have these workers declared “essential”. Throughout this current bargaining process, Mayor Miller has talked about the power of negotiated settlements and how while he sees transit as essential, he’s not so sure about having transit workers designated as “essential” because it usually comes with a price tag (through higher settlements via arbitration). And yet, after one day’s strike, he asked for back to work legislation. Seems like the Mayor and other politicians have been talking out of both sides of their mouth.

    To those who say that an “essential service” designation would not necessarily have prevented a strike, my response is that there are no guarantees in life. However, an “essential service” designation dramatically lessens the chances of work stoppage taking place because of the stiff penalties it imposes, which is why employers sometimes apply for this designation. If the operation of the TTC is so essential that that back to work legislation needs to be passed after a one-day strike, then TTC workers don’t really have the right to strike — and I don’t think they should. But if that’s the case, then I also think they are entitled to a designation as “essential”. If that comes with a price tag, then it’s time that our politicians (especially at the provincial level) owned up to it and started funding the transit system as it should.


  19. Stephen Cheung Says: “Scrapping the union is perhaps the biggest step in promoting workplace stability in modern times of employment.”

    If I recall from my law classes in high school correctly, the RIGHT to organize and belong to a Union is a fundamental part of Canadian and Provincial labour laws. As well, it is also a guaratee in the Canadian Charter of Rights. My own family has been involved in Canadian Labour Unions for several generations now. I understand that unions certainly have their shortcomings. If you work for the TTC, you will undestand the need for a union inthis work environment. I personally have been disciplined (relieved of duty (aka fired)) for having two minor contacts (collisions) within a two year period that were deemed to be 100% my fault (one of which involved my turning toward the curb and removing the bus mirror on a pole to avoid hitting a cyclist who ignored the rules of the road and rode through a red light directly into my path). So, don’t lecture me about a work environment which you have no first hand experience with. I could very easily sit in my armchair and find fault with you and your employer as well. It is very easy (it seems) for right wingers to place all of the blame on the union and none on the employer. End of my rant.

    As a member of ATU113, I will be DEMANDING answers from the Union about how and why they pulled this stupid move on Friday evening. It was handled extremely poorly and as I posted before on the other thread, I am ashamed that it happened. I consider myself to be a PROFESSIONAL Operator. My background prior to joining the TTC was in customer service. Friday evening was anything but professional and showed a total lack of customer service. The next Union meeting should prove to be interesting to say the least.

    One final point: John Tory stated that “I think it might be up to them to take some of their leadership out in the back and give them a horsewhipping because it brought disfavour on the average member of the union.”. I would certainly hope that Mr. Tory is willing to follow his own advice given the result in the last Provincial election regarding his own leadership and how it resulted for the PC Party in Ontario.


  20. I’d agree that the TTC workers don’t have an effective right to strike – seeing that there is a practical certainty that the province will legislate the system back into motion and the negotiating parties into arbritration.

    It makes some sense to formalize this – however, I’m not convinced that relying solely on arbritration will be in the best interests of the system in the long term. Can management negotiate changes in work rules that will help service quality and efficiency in a process that relies on an arbritator?

    (Now – it doesn’t sound like the TTC asked for any of these in the recent negotiations. Certainly none were conceded by the ATU.)

    We need some rules around the arbritration process that rewards the union for helping service and efficiency. If not, the current situation will be frozen in place – one that I would hardly deem as being ‘on track’ in the 1st place.


  21. Yes but Gord, John Tory’s questionable leadership during last year’s campaign did not compromise the safety of thousands of Torontonians, nor did it leave thousands of people stranded.

    I doubt that most operators felt comfortable withdrawing service so abruptly on Friday night, knowing they would have to return to work sooner or later and face the public they left stranded, but they had no choice once that directive was communicated by the union. For that, all blame must fall to Kinnear, and he most certainly should be held accountable.

    By the way, anyone notice how much friendlier TTC operators and collectors have been today? I actually got a ‘good morning’, and it caught me off guard! They seem to be trying very hard to diffuse resentment among riders…


  22. Dismantling the ATU 113 is an overshoot. Many employees are accustomed to handling their issues via the union, and there is no reason to change that routine. The union’s role is not just calling / managing strikes.

    This is what should be done, in my opinion:

    1) All public transit unions in Ontario required by law to give a 72-hours notice before going on strike.

    2) In Toronto and Ottawa, rush-hour service marked as essential, and provided even in case of a strike. Just reuse the Montreal’s rules.

    3) In the coming arbitration, do not give the TTC employees any concessions beyond the last week’s tentative deal, as not to reward the hard-ball tactics.

    Steve: Please remember that the strike started at midnight on Friday and ran through the weekend. It would not have been prevented by the rush hour rule. Unlike most cities, Toronto carries over half of all its riders outside of the peak period, and this market segment is growing faster than peak period travel. I believe a peak-only strike embargo is not workable or appropriate in our environment. It’s all or nothing.


  23. To further add to “sam”‘s comments. From my perspective, if the TTC is in fact eventually declared to be an “ESSENTIAL SERVICE” and the right to withdraw services (strike) becomes a reality there are several things that happen. Contract negotiation still takes place between the Union and the employer. If a negotiated contract cannot be reached, the next step is to enter into BINDING Arbitration with the Arbitrator deciding on the contract terms and settlement.

    Although the right to withdraw service is removed from the process, the employees still retain the right to “work to rule”. If I recall correctly from the last work to rule campaign that the members of ATU113 launched against the TTC (1989 lasting 41 days) (long prior to my becoming a TTC employee), this action was extremely crippling to the TTC and actually resulted in a massive ridership loss that took years to reclaim.

    Knowing what I now know about TTC rules, policies, and procedures, I can see how the TTC’s rules can be turned against them. I won’t give details here, but on any given day, I could legitamately slow service on my own vehicle at least six times a day by following the rules to the letter. Multiply this by 6000 operators and you can imagine what can happen. I say this only to say: “Be careful what you wish for”.

    Steve: “Work to rule” also included a ban on overtime. No extras. No filling for people off sick when the spare board is empty. No staying out for an extra half hour waiting for your relief crew to show up.

    For my part, I would expect that operators who now consider a 20 minute layover to be their inalienable right whether it’s in the schedule or not to be held to operate as directed, not to suit their own fantasy schedules. This is part of the problem on Queen. Some operators are very dedicated, but some spoil it for everyone else.


  24. Steve replied to my last post:

    ““Work to rule” also included a ban on overtime. No extras. No filling for people off sick when the spare board is empty. No staying out for an extra half hour waiting for your relief crew to show up.

    For my part, I would expect that operators who now consider a 20 minute layover to be their inalienable right whether it’s in the schedule or not to be held to operate as directed, not to suit their own fantasy schedules. This is part of the problem on Queen. Some operators are very dedicated, but some spoil it for everyone else.”

    I am in agreement with your points.

    The ban on overtime would be hard on the operators (some of whom have come to depend on this for various reasons), however I feel that it would be a hardship on the riders. I have seen enough buses “parked on the wall” at subway stations due no operator available to fill a crew (or portion thereof). This would only multiply as more vehicles would be out of service due to lack of operators. The only plus side to this is that there would be fewer unionized TTC employees showing up on the “Sunshine” list and making the front page of the Toronto Sun.

    Your second point is one that I am in agreement with as well. As operators, it is incumbent on us to operate to schedules (barring extraordinary events). I am currently operating in a situation where several operators run to their own schedules and make a mess of the line as a result. In my opinion this is unprofessional and does a great disservice to the other operators on the line as well as causing massive inconvenience to the riders whoe expect regual intervals between vehicles.


  25. “2) In Toronto and Ottawa, rush-hour service marked as essential, and provided even in case of a strike. Just reuse the Montreal’s rules.”

    Please no. I’d sooner have no rules than Montreal’s (all of Quebec really) rules. Strikes there can last for weeks. Neither side has an incentive to negotiate. The transit agency doesn’t have to run the costly off-peak service, and is in a better fiscal shape the longer the strike lasts, while the union still gets most of their work, and sometimes over 90% of their salary with a bit of strike pay. I’ve lived through a couple of Montreal strikes – they are really far more dreadful, and can last for more than 4 weeks.


  26. So I see that Bob Kinnear refuses to apologize to the public. This is not a surprise, he likely does not wish to seem “weak” to his members. Now, a man would say that he regrets the massive imposition on the public, but felt it necessary to “protect” his members. See, Bob? you may play both sides in an apology. Mind you, I wouldn’t find it sincere in the slightest, nor would the ATU.

    Meanwhile, I do hear that he is “pleased” with the appointed mediator. Wonder how long it will take until Giambrone demands a new representative at the table instead of Bob Kinnear. I know I would. And I suspect most of the union would, as well.


  27. Steve, Wow, 92 threads before you closed it down. Obviously hit a major nerve. And you know what’s also great … the number of drivers who have contributed one way or the other. It has been refreshing to hear and try to understand what they are going through during this vacuum of information going their way.

    Well Steve, in the previous thread I said that I felt that it was obvious that the strike took place due to union infighting at the top. I have seen it all to often over the years in union spots that I have worked to recognize it all to well. I also felt that any person in the higher places of the union would know that back-to-work legislation would be swift. Can I say I told you so?

    Steve, one gentleman, John FitzGerald I think his name was, was mentioning some things in conjunction with the whispers about “Essential Service”. Most don’t like to see these situations come up.

    Let me preface this with saying that I call myself “City boy at heart” because I now live in South Richmond Hill but grew up in the Dufferin-St. Clair district (and boy I do miss lots and lots of people walking the main streets at night). In 1974, during that 23 day strike, I was walking to and from everyday Rogers Road and Dufferin and Bay and Front. I was walking home back then starting at 2:30AM from downtown. I was there, I experienced it.

    To suggest that they are being ordered around like they are convicts bothers me because the landscape has changed so much during this time period.

    First of all, there was no Durham or York Region Transit, Mississauga Transit was still pretty new, and the TTC still operated these routes … 74 PORT CREDIT, 93 WOODBRIDGE, 59G NORTH YONGE(to Richmond Hill). There was no Spadina subway or Scarboro RT. Take a look at the map section in James Bows’ TRANSIT TORONTO site. Now, take a look at today’s map and also overlay the neighbouring systems (yes, do that because we depend on each other’s system than most would believe).

    As an accident on the 401 also affects the 407 and the Gardiner, the same can be said of transit strikes. It affects all the GTA and that is ineffect about 1/4 to 1/5 of the PROVINCE’S population. And that is just way too many people to be involved! Union politics (or should I say infighting) should never place the public in jeopardy.

    Keep up the good work and keep leading the good fight, Steve.

    Steve: I have been very impressed by the generally high quality of he comments here, even if I have not agreed with each and every one of them. There is a very solid discussion in that thread, as there has been on many others. The readers, not just me, make this site what it is.


  28. I think it’s important that anger be directed at the union executive, rather than the “union” itself. 2/3 of union voters weighed in against the proposed agreement. They were entitled to do so, and are entitled to withdraw services in furtherance of their aims. That 65% voted against the contract means that either the executive failed to adequately advance their interests during negotiations, or failed to effectively communicate with their membership; that is a failure by the executive, not the run-of-the mill TTC worker.

    The executive, rather than the general membership, then compounded that failing by reneging on their 48 hour notice pledge. This was a decision of the executive, put into place immediately after losing the vote. This was an absolute disaster in terms of advancing the interests of TTC workers, and will cost them a lot of public goodwill in the short and long term.

    But having said that, as inconvenient as the precipitous actions of the union executive were for those stranded Friday night, on the whole they probably were best for most people who rely on transit (well, and other commuters who rely on the fact that transit relieves gridlock). Why? It ensured universal anger against the union, and immediate back to work legislation. As a result we were without service for a day and a half – and probably the most convenient time to be without service. In essence, if there was to be a strike, this was the best time for it to happen. Had they given 48 hours notice, *today* would be gridlock and a huge pain for tens of thousands of people. And who knows how quickly the province would have acted to legislate them back to work. They might not, for instance, have had all party support, except for the universal wrath roused by the sudden strike.

    So, all in all, the failings of the union executive may well have served Toronto best. It resulted in the shortest strike possible, at the most convenient time possible, and the city’s hand is strengthened immeasurably in how it deals with the union by the public support any tough stand will generate.


  29. I know I said that I would not comment, but now that I’ve ridden the system again, I feel I do have one more thing to say.

    I had a really hard time trying to be anything but polite. I had a debate with myself about if I was going to give the drier my usual “have a good day”. At the end I decided I would. Most of the comments from passengers to drivers were the usual “does this bus stop at X” or “does this bus go to Y” Drivers did not show any signs of much of anything, no extra grumpiness or anything I noticed. Frankly, at the end of the day I support their right to strike. What really cheeses me is that they lied to us about the 48 hour notice. Had they gone on strike on April 1, that would have been fine, or had they given the 48 hour notice, that also fine, but to tell us they were going to give us a warning and then decide to just stop the system without any warning is really irrational.

    Part of the problem is a one-all view. You said it yourself in response to a comment above with regards to the Queen car. You said “Some operators are very dedicated, but some spoil it for everyone else.” The biggest problem I see here is this view that because one passenger spits on a driver that all passengers are therefore bad. On the flip side there is a view among some that because one driver is a grouch, or watches DVD’s while driving the subway, that all TTC operators are lazy and grumpy. It’s never ‘all’ of anybody, everyone is different. I think that most passengers accept this, but it seems that many of the operators have trouble seeing it.

    Let me put it this way. When an operator gets back to the garage, which is he most likely to say? “121 people say thanks to me toaday” or “1 person told me to f*** off”.

    Steve: An analogy I have always used about service quality goes like this. Telling me that the TTC achieves, say, a 90% “on time” rate (they don’t) means that 10% of the trips I take will be affected by some sort of screwup. If I disaggregate the links (each vehicle counts as one link), the roughly 90 trips I take each month translate to at least 150 unlinked trips. If 15 of these have some sort of foulup due to schedule problems, then there’s a good chance that something approaching 1/6 of my total journeys (15/90) will encounter a problem. Therefore, I will see the system having problems at least once a week, and it’s that problem will remember, not all the times I got where was going on time or even early.

    The number of rotten apples in the barrel has to be very small; otherwise they will have a big effect.


  30. It’s interesting. I work in IT, I make substantially more then a TTC operator. Why is that? Why is it that society values my contribution more then that of a TTC worker?

    Looked at from an analytical point of view, it makes very little sense. If I cease to show up for work one day, nothing much changes, even for the company that I work for (I’ve risen to the level of management, so I don’t even fix things when they’re broken anymore. At best my contributions are visible 6 months+ out). If everyone in my professional strata ceased to show up to work tomorrow, there might be some minor societal inconveniences, but I can’t imagine that new managers couldn’t be found, or existing managers gangpressed into filling our duties.

    If the TTC operators cease to show up for work…. well no need for imagination there!

    Judged on an overall benefit to society basis, I think there’s no question, TTC wins. The environmental benefit alone way outstrips anything I do these days. Potentially when I was earlier in my career and rolling out internet access to isolated communities in the far north, I might have had a marginal positive societal impact, but not lately.

    So why does my employer happily pay my salary, which as stated above is considerably higher then any operator’s paid at the moment, but the TTC’s union’s employers (us) blanch at paying them on the same scale?

    Just because I work at a keyboard and don’t get my hands dirty doesn’t seem like a reasonable justification.



  31. Editorial in Today’s Ottawa Citizen. The rest of the country is watching….

    Transit union strikes out
    The Ottawa Citizen
    Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2008
    Was the sudden labour strike by Toronto transit workers a success? Only if the union was seeking to a) completely alienate millions of Torontonians; b) destroy whatever trust existed between itself and management; c) infuriate politicians of all parties; d) create the impression that the union leadership possesses zero judgment.

    By these measures, the strike was a great triumph. Congratulations.

    The TTC debacle is a cautionary tale to other labour unions about what happens when they overplay their hands.

    Read the rest of the editorial on the Citizen’s website.


  32. The idea of a riders’ union is actually quite interesting. If we combined a bunch of smaller groups and resources that already exist today, such a union could get up off the ground with a good foundation rather quickly. Take this blog, Bow and Co.’s Transit Toronto, Metronauts (or at least its Toronto division 😉 ), and Rocket Riders (even if we disagree with them), and we are already have a foundation to build on.

    It is obvious that the union leadership at local 113 does not care one bit about its paying customers, so us paying customers really ought to form a union of our own, fight the battles instead of accept a passive role like what happened on the weekend.


  33. McKingford said, “The executive, rather than the general membership, then compounded that failing by reneging on their 48 hour notice pledge.”

    Then Nick J Boragina said, “What really cheeses me is that they lied to us about the 48 hour notice.”

    I tend to be very critical of public service unions, but I have to say that this ‘promise breaking” line is such a red herring. The promise of 48 hours notice was for during the negotiations, just because one assumes that such a promise continues into a different scenario does not mean the promise still exists. That said, it is rare for a rejected contract to immediately result in a strike. The general expectation would be to go back to the table at least for a few days before striking. Such a move probably would have included a *new* promise of 48 hours notice, but it could easily have been changed to something else like 24 or 72.

    To be even-handed by throwing in a union-critical comment, in as much as a 48-hour notice promise during the negotiations does not automatically apply to events occurring after a tentative agreement is reached, neither do any of the points in the tentative agreement. I have heard calls for going into binding arbitration with an empty table. Doing that is likely unproductive and wasteful for both sides, but a few ‘plumbs’ in the basket could easily disappear.

    On another point, Gord said, ‘the RIGHT to organize and belong to a Union is a fundamental part of Canadian and Provincial labour laws.”

    Yes it is, but it is also the right of the collective to disband and no longer belong to a Union. It would be wrong for something external to disband a Union, but if democratically decided from within, that is all within their rights.

    My one issue with unions (not just public service unions) is that there is no ‘right to work’ legislation in our jurisdiction. For the most part, the collective bargaining process can be beneficial, not only for the employees but for the employer, as it can be much simpler than many individual bargaining processes. It does, however, assume that no individual is able to bargain on their own behalf better than the union can collectively. This can be offset when there are multiple unions representing different groups of employees that have vastly different skills and abilities. In situations where one union has umbrella bargaining for a wide range of skills, this can lead to situations where it is not only a belief that employees at the high end can get a better deal on their own, it is a reality. Under our legislation, those individuals do not have the right to work if they wish to opt out of the collective bargaining unit.


  34. Dale said “I work in IT, I make substantially more then a TTC operator. Why is that?”

    This is just the supply and demand law acting in the free labor marked. When more people flock to your field, your rate will go down. Until then, use the opportunity to beef up your savings.

    Btw, TTC employees get decent wages after certain number of years in service.


  35. re: Dale’s worry about his pay

    Most IT professionals have years of education during which they don’t earn much if anything. Part of the premium is to pay for these years – and to pay for the education. As a manager, you (we assume) also have substantial experience and knowhow gained over subquent years of work. In addition, as a manager, you likely don’t have much job security.

    If you quit your job as a manager, your company could fill your job. Likewise, the TTC finds new drivers, conductors when workers retire/quit etc. If driving a bus needed 4 years of university training and years of subsequent experience, these jobs would pay somewhat more.

    The benefit of the transit service isn’t just the driver – it’s the equipment and systems as well.

    If you’d get more life satisfaction by driving a bus, I suggest you do just that.


  36. It has burned me up each time I’ve heard someone on various talk radio shows say that TTC drivers and ticket collectors are overpaid. They always use the “I know lots of people who would love to do that work for half that pay…”

    To them, I ask why those people are not lined up to apply for a job with the TTC. Maybe in a ‘perfect world’ a driver or ticket collector might make less, but we live in a world where market demand exists. There simply are not flocks of people who want to work for the TTC, and this is reflected by the amount of overtime available to its employees.

    I know a few operators who drive for YRT and they live in TO! They get paid less than TTC operators do, and I believe they have less benefits. Their commute to the garage would be shorter if they worked for the TTC. Yet, they are perfectly happy driving for YRT and have said they would never want to drive for the TTC. Go figure.

    As for the overtime, and people on the sunshine list, this burns me up as well. Besides the fact that the threshold of $100k was set in 1996 and should have been indexed to inflation (of course the list is growing!), one must look at the reality of the sort of overtime involved to get on there. All the media hype about Candido Barreiro making $100,016 last year fails to take into account that he had to work 421 shifts to do that.

    That is the equivalent to working one shift each and every day last year, PLUS pulling a second shift on 56 days! I can tell you that pigs will not only fly, but fly to the moon on 6-minute headways managed by the TTC before I will work every day of the year plus a second shift on eight of those weeks, and do so for ONLY $100k. I don’t believe I am alone in this, because to return to my starting point, there are not hordes of people lining up to work for the TTC.


  37. Calvin Henry-Cotnam said


    But they are. Thousands apply for every TTC driver position, and only a few hundred make the first cut, then they are further reduced in number by not completing training, or washing out as a driver in service.

    It’s not an easy job, but there is no shortage of people who are willing to give it a try.


  38. It may not be the case that a lot of operators are in fact community college or university educated, unless you look on place of origin terms only. (like immigrants from India who are educated but can’t get a job in their field over here). But I do think that the type of person that the TTC would be more interested in is someone who fits their demands as far as customer service, driving abstract, etc. and who DOES have some sort of post secondary education. You don’t need to balance chemical reactions or design buildings to drive a bus but education does prepare people for better decision-making and responsibility and those are both requirements of these jobs. Maybe this is an advantage to the higher pay rate, if indeed those people are applying.

    The pay is high, a little more now than mine and I work in a pharmaceutical company lab giving blessing to products for human consumption. At times I look at public sector workers and feel jealous about their pay – I think it’s normal and natural to do so. What I tell myself is that I probably should get more than I am and that they should likely get what they get now. In other words I don’t begrudge anyone getting what they can get.

    And about the IT comment above, re: “if I don’t go in few would notice.” That poster was amazingly candid and the same could sort of be said for my job.

    And finally, I have to relate a story of a subway operator I knew. He would have to carefully plan his meals the day/night before he worked – no corn. When I asked why he said – “I can’t have to go to the bathroom when I’m driving and corn will give me problems”. I recount this story because it’s the simple things like that which are also overlooked in the job of a driver. The bathroom isn’t always down the hall and you can’t always just get up and go.


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