Ottawa LRT infrastructure, track maintenance workers join transit union

Some 35 workers who do maintenance on Ottawa's light-rail transit system have joined the local union that also represents OC Transpo employees. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The union that represents OC Transpo employees says it has expanded its umbrella to include Alstom workers who do maintenance on Ottawa’s light-rail transit system.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 said Friday that approximately 35 employees of Alstom Transport Canada have joined its ranks.

The workers perform infrastructure and track maintenance as well as warehouse work on Ottawa’s Confederation Line LRT. Other Alstom employees who do upkeep on the LRT vehicles themselves are already unionized under the same banner, according to ATU Local 279.

Clint Crabtree, president of the ATU’s Ottawa chapter, said in a statement that the Alstom workers reached out to the union in an effort to organize.

Read more: Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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As large membership meetings would have been prohibited under public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the union drive was done largely through a series of one-on-one phone meetings and membership cards were signed on an individual or paired basis with local ATU reps, Crabtree said.

Local ATU 279 said it had already secured a union recognition clause for vehicle maintenance workers in the LRT project’s original request for proposals, but that language did not originally include track and infrastructure maintenance workers.

ATU said in their statement that workers will look to get more rigid job classification between the skilled trades and reduce “floating.” Workers will also hope to get work-life balance improvements, citing 12-hour shifts and weekly rotations between days and nights as issues.

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