TORONTO — Commuters were concerned of possible service disruptions in the coming days at Toronto’s Union Station on Wednesday after nearly 100 employees at Canada’s busiest transit hub walked off the job.
Ninety-five workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers went on strike at 12:01 a.m. after the union and Toronto Terminals Railway failed to reach an agreement.
The workers are mainly responsible for signals and communication maintenance as well as train control at the Union Station rail corridor.
Despite the strike, GO Transit and UP Express trains arrived on time Wednesday morning.
Sarah Cowin said there was no delay during her commute to downtown Toronto. She took the GO train from Whitby, Ont., to Union Station.
But she said she was concerned the strike could have an impact on her commute in the next few days.
Cowin said she works as a nurse for the Ontario Nurses’ Association, and she supports the striking workers even if the strike causes delays.
“It will probably become an issue, but you know what I’m a union worker too, so (I) support them 100 per cent of the way,” she said.
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Jaime Salazar said his train also arrived at Union Station on time. He took the GO train form Meadowvale Station in Mississauga, Ont., to downtown Toronto.
Salazar said he always tries to leave home early to avoid being late to work and he will continue doing that during the strike.
“I always come earlier just to avoid any delays or anything … even if it’s late by maybe let’s say 10 minutes or 15 minutes, I will be fine,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Metrolinx said early Wednesday that a labour disruption contingency plan has been put in effect, and the transit agency continues to be hopeful that impacts to GO Transit and UP Express service will be limited.
However, Anne Marie Aikins said the risk of travel complications at the hub could increase if there is a long labour disruption.
Metrolinx, which is currently operating more than 300 trains daily in and out of Union Station, is advising customers to sign up for service alerts and check the GO and UP Express train schedule before leaving home. Aikins said Metrolinx will communicate with customers frequently to keep them updated if there are any delays or cancellations.
She said Toronto Transit Commission subway service won’t be affected.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said the union remains committed to working with the company to reach a fair and reasonable settlement.
“The company has refused to negotiate seriously with the union to add or modify improvements that would stand a chance of ratification,” said Steve Martin, senior general chairman for IBEW’s system council No. 11.
“With no real value added to the previous memorandum of settlement that was voted down in October 2021 we were left with no choice but to commence a legal work stoppage.”
TTR said the workers have been without a new contract since December 2019.
In a statement, the operator said it began negotiations with the union at the beginning of 2020, but talks were delayed due to the pandemic. They resumed last summer.
The employer said a tentative agreement was reached in September 2021, but it was not ratified by the union members.
TTR said increased wage demands from the union are at the heart of the matter.