Transit union, City of Winnipeg come to impasse over contract negotiations

Winnipeg Transit bus Osborne Station
The City of Winnipeg says contract negotiations with Winnipeg Transit employees have come to an impasse. Global News / File

The city is backing out of contract negotiations with Winnipeg bus drivers, warning a strike is likely.

The city’s chief corporate services officer said Monday negotiations with the Amalgamated Transit Union 1505, which represents Winnipeg Transit drivers, have come to an impasse.

“While the ATU continues to demand more of taxpayers and passengers, they have not proposed any concessions of their own and have not identified or proposed any lower priority items they feel can be negotiated,” said Michael Jack in a release.

“Unfortunately, a strike initiated by ATU in September is now more likely than ever when they know it will be most disruptive to passengers and residents.”

The previous agreement expired on Jan. 12. The union represents more than 1,400 transit operators and maintenance workers at Winnipeg Transit.

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READ MORE: Winnipeg Transit Union rejects contract offer from city

The city’s latest offer, made July 3, was rejected Thursday.

The city said the ATU counter didn’t include a specific wage increase offer and defeated “the purpose of attempting to reach a collective agreement at this stage of the negotiations.”

“After reviewing ATU’s counter-proposal, it has become abundantly clear that they have no interest in reaching a negotiated settlement with the City of Winnipeg,” said Jack.

“After more than six months of negotiating, they did not include a proposal on general wage increases. Instead, they asked to continue discussing it, which at this stage of negotiating is arguably in bad faith and a clear signal that the ATU intends to strike.

“We are now officially at an impasse.”

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In a response to the city’s release, ATU president Aleem Chaudhary said the union hasn’t threatened to strike and blamed the city for fanning the flames over this risks of a disruption to service.

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“We’re concerned that the City of Winnipeg continues to raise the possibility that they will lock out ATU 1505 members and disrupt service for the 170,000 rides that our members provide each day,” he said.

“Over the last few weeks, the two sides have moved closer together on several key issues, and we feel that the latest move by the City has the potential to push that progress backwards.”

The city’s release says the ATU’s previous collective agreement is officially terminated and the city “will now consider all options” available under the Labour Relations Act.

The city said it’s latest offer to ATU members made several concessions, but was rejected without the union taking it to a vote with its members.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Transit Union to ban voluntary overtime as fight for new contract continues

Jack said ATU’s counter offer “repacked most of their previous proposals”, variations of which it estimates would cost up to $50 million over a four-year agreement.

Chaudhary said the city hasn’t provided a breakdown for those estimates and defended the union’s proposals, saying they’ve focused on issues like accountability for scheduling and providing dedicated psychological support for its members.

“It is unfortunate that the City wants to make this labour dispute about wages, instead of taking the responsibility to provide Winnipegers with the Transit system that they deserve,” he said.

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“Our focus has been on a fair agreement that improves our working conditions for our members and the riding public.”

The ATU said it is reaching out to the city to return to the bargaining table “at their earliest convenience.”

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