by Scott Price
On May 12 at noon members of ATU 1505, the union that represents Winnipeg public transit workers, held a rally at city hall calling on the city to give them a fair deal.
ATU 1505 has been in a contract dispute with the city since the union members rejected the city’s offer in mid-April by 91.5 percent.
Starting on April 27th transit workers were refusing overtime causing delays in services.
John Callahan, President of ATU 1505 said that this has prevented about 20 runs a day from going out and that one hundred buses were out of service due to lack of maintenance. “So you can’t run an essential service like transit on overtime” Callahan stated in an interview with Rankandfile.ca.
Dave Sauer, president of the Winnipeg Labour Council was there in solidarity. “In today’s context of how much we are hearing from city hall that they want to see better investments in transit and so forth, that starts at the core with the workforce,” said Sauer.
Long hours and split shifts
Callahan said that the main issue was competitiveness, which then ties into a lack of retention of good workers. Callahan explained that many bus drivers have three split shifts which means long hours in uniform.
“It’s a rush hour business but the issue is that with the low wages, with the long day, the three splits its difficult to attract people so you’ve got to be more competitive with your wage package in order to overcome that. Our turn ’round for entry level bus drivers is somewhere around fifty percent so it’s very high,” says Callahan.
In New York and Montreal transit workers have also carried out fare strikes. Transit workers refuse to collect fares to put pressure on the employer to reach a collective agreement while building goodwill with the pulic. When asked if ATU 1505 members will try similar tactics Callahan responded “From what I understand they’ve got a lot of fair boxes out there right now that aren’t working as a result of the labour dispute so that is something that is happening but it wasn’t by design.”
Metro Winnipeg reported that Mayor Brian Bowman made a brief appearance at the rally and said that he hoped that the two sides could reach an agreement.
ATU 1505 and the City of Winnipeg go into a conciliation process on the 19th of May with other dates also scheduled on the 21st and the 22nd of May.