STM maintenance workers take to the streets over forced overtime

STM Maintenance workers protest outside of the transit authority's offices. Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Global News/Karol Dahl

Hundreds of STM maintenance workers held a noisy protest in downtown Montreal Thursday afternoon in front of the transit authority’s offices.

Some 2,400 maintenance staff have been without a contract since January. The sticking points are overtime and scheduling.

The workers say they are tired of doing forced overtime and want the transit authority to hire more staff.

“They think they will save money, but people will hurt themselves. We have done 500,000 hours of overtime in the past year. What more do they want from us?” said Martin Paquette, a maintenance worker and a union representative.

There has been a hiring freeze in place at the STM since 2014, but the number of routes has increased.

The union representing the workers is asking for 250 more jobs to be created.

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READ MORE: Bus schedules could be affected this week as STM workers ramp up pressure tactics

A spokesperson for the STM says the overtime problems can be solved if employees would agree to work more night and weekend shifts.

In a bid to get users to rely more on public transit, off-hour routes have been added, and that requires more buses.

As it stands, seniority rules in the contract prevent the transit authority from assigning less desirable hours. Instead, workers are paid overtime to stay on after their day shifts, or are paid overtime to work an extra day over the weekend.

READ MORE: Montreal transit users told to brace for a strike

Management says that due to the labour conflict, 4,320 hours of service have been lost.

The union and management are talking. A first round of mediation began Sept 12.