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HSR drivers, city still far apart on key contract issues: union

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. City of Hamilton

There’s a growing potential for job action by Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) drivers.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 president Eric Tuck says he’ll be urging members to reject a city contract officer next week and to provide their negotiating team with a strike mandate.

READ MORE: Consultation bus hits streets of Hamilton to shape future vision of HSR

Tuck says the city has presented a final offer that doesn’t include progress on wages, benefits or working conditions.

Tuck adds that he was on the picket lines back in 1998 when Hamilton’s last transit strike dragged on for about 10 weeks.

He stresses that it’s not something he ever wants to go through again, but “there has to be some movement on the other side, otherwise we’ve got no choice but to do what we have to do.”

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Bathroom breaks have been a central issue in negotiations with the ATU seeking dedicated “end of the line” washrooms for drivers along with a 5-minute window to use them.

Currently, the city has agreements with 37 businesses to allow bathroom access to HSR drivers along their routes, but Tuck says that “infuses anger” among passengers.

READ MORE: HSR director questioned about morale as driver absenteeism soars

He notes that customers “want to get to work on time, they want to make their connections, they don’t want to be sitting in a bus for seven minutes, 10 minutes, while somebody goes in to use the bathroom.”

From the driver’s perspective, Tuck adds that “it’s kind of humiliating to come out and have the passengers angry at you, yelling at you.”

HSR drivers have been without a contract since the end of 2018.