City rejects latest Winnipeg Transit union offer

Click to play video: 'Brian Mayes chastises City for ‘juvenile’ line in transit release' Brian Mayes chastises City for ‘juvenile’ line in transit release
Councillor Brian Mayes said the City was "juvenile" when it included a line in a press release claiming the Winnipeg Transit union would go on strike when it was "most inconvenient" for riders. – Aug 22, 2019

The city has rejected the latest counter-offer from the union representing Winnipeg Transit employees, as the possibility of an interruption to bus service continues to loom over riders.

In a release Thursday the city said negotiations with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 (ATU) remain at an impasse with the two sides roughly $68 million apart, by the city’s math.

“The City has asked ATU to come back with a counter-proposal that is reasonably in line with what the City has offered in the previous four contract proposals, and not just another repackaging of their previous proposals,” reads the release.

“We fully expect ATU to initiate strike action in the fall when it is most inconvenient to Transit passengers.”

Transit workers have been without a contract since the previous agreement expired on Jan. 12.

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The union made the counter-proposal Friday after transit workers overwhelmingly voted against the contract offer by just over 92 per cent.

READ MORE: City using ‘intimidation tactic’ in ongoing transit labour negotiations, says union

Following the vote, the ATU said it was asking the city for a 7.75 per cent wage increase under the condition the city agrees to improve working conditions.

Union representatives focused on several issues, including better bus schedules, recovery time for drivers and mental health support.

On Thursday the city outlined its three main sticking main with the union’s offer, including a general wage increase for all ATU members, a $10 wage increase for all ATU mechanics, and a five-minute mandatory recovery time at the end of each trip for bus drivers.

To accommodate the five-minutes of recovery time the city says it would need to hire 41 additional bus drivers, six maintenance supervisors, and add roughly 32 buses to the fleet to keep bus frequency at current levels.

It estimates that would cost roughly $10.6 million annually, or more than $32 million over the life of the contract, as well as a one-time payment of $21 million to buy the extra buses.

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The city also said the two sides are roughly $5 million apart on general wage increases, and roughly $9.6 million apart on wage increases for ATU mechanics.

The city hasn’t made a counter-offer.

READ MORE: City, transit union at an impasse after mediation

In a statement sent later in the day Thursday ATU president Aleem Chaudhary accused the city of throwing “increasingly inflated and unsourced numbers around with reckless abandon.”

“The City has made it clear with their latest aggression that they would rather threaten workers and riders than fix the mess at Winnipeg Transit and work in good faith, sit down with the ATU, and solve these issues,” he said.

“As the City has repeatedly ignored concerns with scheduling, we are left to understand that the City simply doesn’t care about bus riders.”

The union has previously said it doesn’t plan on striking immediately. However, the city also has the option to shut down transit service with a lockout.

Transit provides roughly 170,000 rides every day.

The last transit strike in Winnipeg was in the fall of 1976, which lasted six weeks, according to the ATU.

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