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This article was published 11/6/2019 (399 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s transit union brought its top gun to city hall Tuesday morning.
John Costa, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said he came to Winnipeg from his office in Washington, D.C., to offer advice and support to the local union team, adding he’s prepared to stay as long as necessary.
"I came up from D.C. to support our brothers and sisters here in this fight, no matter what they may need," he said during a morning news conference in Winnipeg city hall's courtyard.
Unionized Winnipeg Transit members have already rejected two separate offers from the city, with rejection results of 97 per cent and 98 per cent, respectively.
City hall requested the province to appoint a conciliator to jump-start negotiations, but no date has been set for another meeting.
Aleem Chaudhary, president of Local 1505, said he believes the two sides are still too far apart and hopes the gap can be narrowed before they meet with the provincially-appointed conciliator.
Chaudhary said the major stumbling block is the city’s demand for a wage freeze in the first year of the agreement, along with a proposal to hire 200 part-time drivers at a lower wage rate, with no benefits.
Costa said the vote results show Transit members are ready to strike, but it can be avoided.
"Our members want to strike. They are tired of the (unreasonable) work rules, the schedules," he said. "This contract is really not that hard to settle: those who are at the top need to sit down with the local and settle this contract before this goes further."
A city spokesman said the province has appointed a conciliator — who acts as a go-between to find common ground between the two sides but who cannot force a settlement — but the first meeting won’t be held before July 2.
In the meantime, the city said Tuesday it informed the ATU it is prepared to meet with its bargaining team ahead of a meeting with the conciliator, "to hear their counterproposal to our final offer, in the interest of achieving an agreement."
David Driedger, Winnipeg manager of corporate communications, said the wage package rejected by Transit employees was similar to that agreed to by other civic unions, adding the creation of part-time driver classification was done with the interest of improving "a better work/life balance" for full-time drivers.
Mayor Brian Bowman later told reporters the city wants to achieve a collective agreement without a strike, adding it is not making any plans for a lockout.
Bowman said the city was able to achieve settlements with other civic unions, including police and firefighters, without a labour disruption. He hoped the same can be accomplished with the Transit union.
"Well over a hundred-thousand people use the Transit service every day. It’s an invaluable service," the mayor said. "We want to see negotiations conclude as soon as possible, and we want to see a deal reached that is fair to our valued employees who work for Transit, but also for taxpayers."
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