A day after city hall declared an "impasse" in bargaining with its transit union and raised fears of a strike in the fall, both sides have agreed to sit down together following an intervention from the Manitoba Labour Board.
An email sent Tuesday afternoon to all members of council from Michael Jack, the city’s chief corporate services officer, said one of the labour board’s vice-chairpersons offered to mediate the contract dispute.
Mediation sessions have been scheduled for Aug. 1-2.
A spokesman for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 said the union has agreed to participate.
After conciliation efforts ended without success last week, Mayor Brian Bowman said Monday that he suspects the transit union is deliberately stalling progress on talks in order to stage a strike in September — a similar concern he raised July 5 after the union went public with an offer it had made to the city.
Aleem Chaudhary, president of Local 1505, denied the union wants a strike, explaining it wants to see the resolution of several outstanding workplace issues that he said would lead to improved service.
City officials said the union’s proposal would result in more than $50 million in additional costs to Winnipeg Transit over the life of a four-year agreement.
The transit union contract expired Jan. 12. The two sides have met sporadically since then, with union members twice rejecting settlement offers from the city.
In his email to council members, which was obtained by the Free Press, Jack said legal counsel for both sides met Tuesday morning at the labour board offices in advance of an Aug. 19 hearing on the city’s complaint of an unfair labour practice, prompted by Local 1505’s directive to Winnipeg Transit drivers not to enforce fare collection on two separate days earlier this year.
Jack writes that at the meeting, the unnamed chairperson of the board "expressed a desire to mediate the outstanding collective bargaining process, given that our efforts at conciliation did not yield a negotiated agreement."
The Manitoba Labour Board website identifies eight vice-chairs.
Jack told council members that the mediation process will be similar to the unsuccessful conciliation process, in that it’s non-binding.
"We will make every reasonable effort to successfully negotiate an agreement, while remaining within the mandate provided to our negotiating team," he states in the email.
"We remain hopeful that a deal is achievable that is fair, reasonable and properly protects the interests of Transit riders and property taxpayers.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.