Both city hall and the transit workers union say they don’t want a strike, but seven months of contract negotiations and four settlement offers later, there appear to be few options left to end the stalemate.
The collective agreement between the city and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 expired on Jan. 12.
Negotiations have been taking place since, with the latest round involving a mediator.
Last week, the city gave the union what it’s calling its fourth and final offer — after an initial "final" offer back in May.
"It’s pretty clear to us that they continue to kick the can down the road to get into September, when a strike would be most impactful to the city and to riders," Michael Jack, the city’s chief corporate services officer, told reporters.
"We don’t want that to occur, so we are considering every single option we need to bring this matter to a resolution quickly."
The union has yet to vote on the latest final offer.
It plans to present it to its membership of about 1,500 employees, including operators and mechanics, over the weekend and provide results next Friday.
ATU 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary told the Free Press the union has no plans to strike and "inconvenience our riders" at this point, but that taking such action is not out of the question.
"Working conditions are No. 1 and we want a decent wage increase and we want some respect for our members," Chaudhary said.
The union wants a 2.75 per cent general wage increase each of the next four years and a $10 per hour wage increase for mechanics, according to the city.
The city has offered a two per cent wage increase for each year of the agreement, which is proposed to be four years and two months long.
The city said its final offer and the union's most recent proposal are tens of millions of dollars apart.
But the union continues to argue it is prioritizing improved customer service, more public education campaigns and reliable scheduling over money in the negotiations.
"As it stands, 40 odd per cent of buses are running late and because of that, there’s a lot of conflict," Chaudhary said.
"Whenever the bus shows up late, passengers get frustrated because they’re late for work or late for appointments. And who’s the first person they take it out on?"
Meanwhile, Jack said, the two have discussed scheduling "to the nth degree."
The city has invested $20 million in improvements for rider and operator safety, he added.
"We’ve put an offer that is consistent with what all six other bargaining units agreed to."
Ross Eadie, city councillor for Mynarski said when it comes to scheduling, operators likely know what users need best.
"Both sides should be considering the user," he said.
The councillor, a frequent bus rider, said he can’t recall the last time a collective-agreement dispute went on so long.
He remembers a transit strike in the 1970s.
email@example.com Twitter: @macintoshmaggie
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
Updated on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 at 10:31 PM CDT: Updates story.