Winnipeg Transit union members have ratified a new collective agreement by the narrowest of margins.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 said Friday the contract was approved by 51.97 per cent of members who cast a ballot.
ATU 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary said the low level of support reflects members’ mistrust of management.
"It’s a trust issue," he said. "The membership doesn’t have the faith and trust in management to carry forward on the promises they have made at the table, and that has been the issue for years and years."
The ratification ends speculation the city’s transit service would be shut down by a strike or lockout.
Transit union members have been without a contract since January. Members had rejected three offers from city hall. However, the latest was the first supported by the union’s bargaining team.
The ATU 1505 represents more than 1,400 transit operators and maintenance workers in Winnipeg and Brandon.
"The bargaining team believes this is a fair deal and one we can work with," Chaudhary said, adding if Transit management can make good on its commitments, "it can be a good deal for both sides."
Negotiations repeatedly broke down during the past nine months over working conditions for drivers and wage rates for mechanics.
Chaudhary said the deal contains letters of understanding that bind management to improve the five worst-performing routes in the Transit system.
"While there is a lot of work to be done to improve Winnipeg Transit, we think that this agreement gives us a strong foundation to improve transit for the riding public and our members," he said.
A civic spokesman said city hall is pleased the tentative agreement has been ratified.
"We believe this is a fair and reasonable deal for all parties involved, including Winnipeg taxpayers," said David Driedger, manager of corporate communications.
"The details of the agreement will be brought forward in an administrative report recommending the ratification of the tentative agreement to (executive policy committee) and council for approval."
The ATU said the agreement provides its members with:
● A $200 signing bonus;
● Wage increases of 1.25 per cent in 2020, two per cent in 2021, 1.75 per cent in 2022, and two per cent in January 2023, which coincides with the expiry of the agreement;
● Additional increases of 50 cents per hour for mechanics and skilled trades in 2021 and 2022.
The tentative agreement was reached Sept. 20. Ratification voting began Sept. 29 and concluded Friday.
Chaudhary said the wage top-up for Transit mechanics and skilled trades is a start to bridging the pay gap compared to wages offered for similar positions in other civic departments.
"We believe that we’ve strengthened our position in being able to better serve our members and the general public by bringing forward issues of scheduling and working conditions."
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.