Walking the Talk (2)

Today (February 9), Bob Kinnear, the President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, held a press conference to present the union’s response to recent events and statements on the TTC, in the media and from TTC management.

Note that the text linked here was scanned from the version distributed to the media before the briefing, and it may not exactly match Kinnear’s presentation.  However, the text doesn’t appear to be in a convenient online location and so I am posting it here.

The text reads fairly well and while it takes a firm stance, it does acknowledge that things need to change.  To that end, the ATU plans to organize a series of Town Halls where the public and union members can discuss issues related to the TTC and how they might be addressed.  Whether such events will be at all cordial I don’t know given the comments on various blogs and media sites, but at least the union is trying to go to the public with its story.

I wasn’t at the press conference, but received news of it later and saw a few clips on the evening news.  Unfortunately, what I saw showed Kinnear in the more familiar, combative mode that is the union’s public face.  Some of this was selective editing.  For example, there was a line “Who made you God?” which was directed at the TTC’s Brad Ross for implying that it is possible to take a washroom break in only 3 minutes, including the time it takes to get between the vehicle and the washroom.  This was forcefully (more than necessary) delivered, and used as a free-standing clip by Global TV.

Later, I was interviewed by Global, but they used only a snippet out of a longer conversation.  In that clip, I said, in effect, that the problem of rude staff isn’t a one-or-two-of thing because there are simply too many separate reports coming from reasonably credible sources.  I didn’t mention that I (and I’m sure anyone else who is even vaguely connected with the TTC) am getting notes and reports from friends about their experiences.

The larger context of the interview was first my pleasure that the union took the high road even though, as I understood things, Kinnear’s delivery of the message used a hard line that might have been counterproductive.  I talked about “TTC culture” and a management where, for anything that happens, the first reaction is to find something external to blame rather than looking inside for improvement.

I also talked about the need for some labour discussions to take place in public, and unusual move I know.  One of the big issues through the past weeks is the question of breaks — how long, how often, where.  Some operating shifts have breaks built in, but not all of them, and even the scheduled breaks can be thrown awry if service is always badly off kilter.  Fixing this will take much negotiation and probably changes in the way operators’ work is defined and scheduled.

Recent events are so public that at least the broad outline of the issues, positions and possible fixes must be visible so that even if everyone can’t agree (and I use a very broad definition of “everyone”), at least they will understand the options on the table.

(I am not going to get into a debate about the level of operators’ wages here as we have pounded that topic to death before.)

The joys of media coverage, whether you’re a union president, a politician or just a transit advocate, involve the chances one takes in the editing.  I said what I said, and I stand by that, but wanted those who might only see the five second clip to know the larger story.

Please note that comments on this item will be strongly monitored for intemperate language.  This is a complex issue and it deserves an informed, detailed discussion, not rants from either side of the political spectrum.