An interview with ATU Local 615 President Jim Yakubowski
By Andrew Stevens
On September 29, RankandFile.ca spoke with Jim Yakubowski, President of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 615, about the ongoing lockout of city transit workers in Saskatoon. ATU Local 615 represents 330 drivers, mechanics, and support staff who operate and maintain the city’s bus fleet. It has been nearly two weeks since the City of Saskatoon locked out transit workers in an effort to force concessions on the defined benefit pension plan.
Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board ordered the City of Saskatoon to halt further changes to the pension plan following a decision by Council to impose a new formula on the workers. However, the Board has not ruled the lockout illegal, despite the union’s claim that a pending application should have restricted the City’s right to issue a lockout notice.
President Yakubowski discusses the national significance of battles over pension plans, citing Bombardier’s demand that workers employed in the company’s Thunder Bay operation concede to a roll back in benefits.
Events in Saskatoon also demonstrate the importance of building community support in the face of cutbacks and concessions. The emergence of a bus riders union earlier this month has opened up a space for community members, unions, and transit workers to discuss an expansion of transit services, particularly for those citizens with mobility and accessibility issues. The movement, Yakubowski suggests, offers and important connection between workers and public service users in Saskatoon.
All of this takes place when the City has been unable to properly maintain it’s fleet of buses and is using the labour dispute and lockout as a means of masking wider problems stemming from how public transit is staffed and management in Saskatoon.
Listen to the interview with Local 615 President below.