What About that Continuing YRT Strike?

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What About that Continuing YRT Strike?

I notice that the YRT strike is continuing. I also notice that management seems to have hired a lot of private security goons, presumably to break the strike and disrupt union attempts to win it. I don't know much about it, but don't like the look of what I have seen lately riding YRT. Looks like the union is losing this and that there's not a lot of community support for them. Shouldn't other unions be helping here? Hope something can be done and more information shared on this.


Here's a few things to start it off:

York Region Transit Strike Hits Day 50 {now 65!]


"Failed negotiations usher transit workers and transit riders into their eighth week of coping with the strike..."


York Region Transit Strike Update


"The bargaining committee will be taking a close look at Veolia's proposal as soon as possible and will decide wether to respond with a counter proposal or take it directly to the membership' says Bob Kinnear.."


Union Picketing Can Continue in York Region Transit Strike Says Court


"We have no problem with the court order but the real issue is why this dispute is still going on when it could have been resolved two months ago through binding arbitration were it not for Chairman Bill Fisch. This dispute will forever be known as the Fisch Bus Strike of 2011-12. What a legacy."


Sadly, this may end up with a similar fate to the Ottawa strike - the most affected residents are the ones without vehicles who are in the minority and not particularly influential. Everyone else just carpools or gets a new car. The union loses the PR battle.


From YRT to Occupied Palestine : VEOLIA


Veolia, a large French multinational, is helping to build and operate a tramway linking illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Veolia must be made to halt these activities which enable Israel to maintain and tighten its grip on the occupation. Until then, we encourage a boycott of Veolia - a firm complicit in the ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people..."


NDPP - or anyone else who knows - can you give us some understanding of who these workers are and whom they work for?

[url=http://www.yrt.ca/en/aboutus/history.asp]From what I can see[/url], five municipalities amalgamated their transit services and then "privatized" the driving and maintenance of buses, to four private contractors. I would assume, therefore, that there are four different employers. Are all four involved in the strike? And what if any is the role of the elected officials?

What I do get is that these workers appear to be grossly underpaid compared to other big-city transit workers - one driver apparently is paid $19.71 per hour (according to a [url=http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1088135]Star article[/url]), compared to around $29 elsewhere. But the main issue in this strike (according to one of the locals involved... there seem to be several) is the union's quest to get out of the 50-50 health benefit sharing formula. My question is: how did they end up there in the first place? Were there concessions given, or extracted, when the transit services were merged?

Anyway, I don't understand much about this, and would like to. Anyone who can shed some light, please do!




Unionist wrote:

Anyway, I don't understand much about this, and would like to. Anyone who can shed some light, please do!



here's the latest:

Striking York Region Transit Workers Return to Picket Lines


"Striking York Region Transit workers returned to the picket line Tuesday morning after taking a break during the holidays. As the strike nears its 11th week, workers picketed outside a Veolia Transportation yard on Caldari Road, near Rutherford Road and Jane Street, in Vaughn and outside York Region headquarters on Yonge Street in Newmarket..."


Whats wrong with a 50/50 cost for health benefits?  This isn't a leading question, I really want to know as i have no experience in the issue


Bacchus wrote:

Whats wrong with a 50/50 cost for health benefits?  This isn't a leading question, I really want to know as i have no experience in the issue

Unionized workers bargain health insurance plans of various kinds (life insurance, drugs, semi-private hospital, ambulance, vision care, dental plans, etc.) with employers. They've done so for decades. They try to get the best benefits they can, with the least deductible, the highest maximums, etc. Then, the employer generally goes and finds an insurance carrier and pays the premiums. That doesn't mean the worker doesn't pay anything - they're paying deductibles, excess over maximums, non-insured services - depending on what they bargained.

50/50 goes one step further - bargain a plan, then the workers pay half the cost, in addition to all the rest.

That wouldn't be bad, if this were 1850 instead of 2011, and if comparable unionized (and many many non-union) workers weren't doing far better than that.

It would be pretty devastating in the U.S., where unionized employers have drastically higher premiums to pay than comparable companies in Canada - because there's no public health care there, so they have to pay for all the stuff that's paid here through general government revenues.

It seems even the transit contractors recognize they're bottom feeders here, because they've apparently offered to go up to 75/25 within a few years (don't know all the details).

Having said that, I'm not really enamoured of the notion of debating the merit of workers' demands or employers' offers when workers are in struggle. They've stopped work for almost three months, so I figure they've got a good reason to do so. The issue is how the workers' movement and its allies can best mobilize to support each group that finds itself in such positions.



I ask because on the surface it looks like a good idea. Employer and employee sharing the costs and working together, both with a stake in how everything is run.There must be something deeper than the surface for the union to want out of it. So what is it?


BTW Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America by
Joseph A. McCartin is fascinating insight on what happened and the chill it had on all levels of goverment union relationships


THanks Unionist. I suspected it was something like that. You also forgot that benefits are a taxable benefit, which means the workers also pay income tax on it.


Ah it is in Ontario. I thought it was fedral not provincial. oops my bad


Bacchus wrote:

You also forgot that benefits are a taxable benefit, which means the workers also pay income tax on it.

Not in Canada. Dental plans and extended health insurance (drugs, ambulance, semi-private, vision care, etc.) are taxable to the employee only in Québec. Life insurance is taxed everywhere, but it's obviously not one of the high-cost items. Salary-replacement plans are of course taxable throughout (sick leave, short and long term disability), except where premiums are paid by employees, but that's the exception in a unionized environment.

I don't know enough about the YRT story to know exactly which benefits are 50/50, but I assume they mean drug, dental, etc., which would not be taxable in Ontario.


Here's an earlier piece on the strike. (Nov, 2011)

YTR Strike Turns to War


"...Later that afternoon [Tory MPP, Frank] Klees accused York Region Council of 'having failed the people that elected you.' Klees went so far as to suggest he would bring a bill forward that would functionally depose Chairman Fisch, making his position elected by the people of York Region directly.

He advocated in the Ontario legislature for the passage of a private member's bill to legislate the strikers back to work. The bill, presented by PC MPP Peter Shurman, would have sent strikers back to work immediately, established the YRT as an essential service, and sent negotiations to third party arbitration.

It was defeated in a vote of 67 to 37. The NDP refused to support an essential service clause, and the McGuinty Liberals argued the five week old strike would resolve itself soon by direct negotiations. The Liberal viewpoint is not shared by striking workers.

'This is going to go on to New Year's. This is going to be a long haul fight,' said Alistair Sutter, a striking YRT bus driver..'


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I live up here, I'll see what I can find. I know these guys are working at it. Take a look at their video for the Canadian Labour Congress. Vote for "One Paycheck Away"(sic)


Here's some close to the ground awareness:


There's a myriad of private interests. Do I need to say more? Multiple companies and bargaining units I believe. Wholly irreedeemable if you ask me. Unless they hold out but it's hurting people big time. They need more support.


thanks RP, you'd think ATU 113 could update their website - apparently not. Here's some MSM

Pickets Continue as YRT Strike Enters 12th Week


"With their strike now in its 12th week, striking York Region Transit workers are picketing in front of at least three facilities Tuesday..."

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Thanks for getting this going NDPP. I was afraid to get involved.

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[url=http://www.thestar.com/news/transportation/article/1116610--york-region-... Region cancels contract with transit operator hit by strike[/url]


The region, he said, is relying on a contract clause that permits it to terminate the agreement if a labour dispute has been unresolved for 30 days. It has been about a month since First Canada and the union last met, he said.

Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents about 200 striking Veolia employees, accuses the municipality of “bullying tactics.”

“Whoever takes over the contract would have to negotiate with the ATU,” he said, adding that, “The region can't just change contractors like it changes underwear.”

What’s more, he said, the timing is “suspect.” Veolia employees will vote on that company’s final contract offer on Tuesday.


John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, agreed with Kinnear that the region’s move is “really a crude attempt at blackmailing the workers that are voting (Tuesday).”

[url=http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1117053--viva-drivers-vote-down-late... drivers vote down latest contract offer[/url]


The union is filing an unfair labour practice claim against York Region, after it cancelled its contract with another bus service provider.


Striking Viva bus drivers have overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offer from their employer, Veolia Transport, on the same day their union plans to file a complaint of unfair labour practices against York Region.

The union representing the bus drivers, who are in the 13th week of a strike, claims the region tried to bully them into voting in favour of the offer from Veolia by announcing the termination of its contract with another bus provider whose workers are also striking, said Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

The tactic didn’t work, he said, as 133 workers voted against the Veolia offer and only 43 in favour in the Tuesday vote.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that (Region Chair) Bill Fisch will begin to address the workers’ concerns and get a collective agreement,” said Kinnear, although he admitted that his members couldn’t help but be shaken by the termination of York’s contract with First Canada.

[url=http://www.thestar.com/news/transportation/article/1117140--is-privatize... privatized transit to blame in York Region strike?[/url]


Local 113, which represents the Veolia workers, has filed a claim of unfair labour practices against the region for making the First Canada announcement hours before its vote.

Meantime, 90 First Canada drivers are employed by a company that presumably no longer has any work for them.

“It shows this private scheme (Region chair) Bill Fisch has cooked up is a failure,” said Toronto and York District Labour Council president John Cartwright.

“The (First Canada) workers are in shock. There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” said Ray Doyle, president of Local 1587. The union will use every legal tool available to compel the new contractor to hire those employees, he said.

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The region’s move was timed to discourage members voting today, Mr. Kinnear said, and also reasserted the union is willing to negotiate around the clock and would return to work immediately if the contractor agreed to binding arbitration.


York Region chairperson Bill Fisch's statement on today's vote

It’s not surprising Viva drivers did not accept a fulsome offer from York BRT Services today. It is, however, disappointing as this is a fair and immediate opportunity to end the suffering of riders deprived of service for far too long, and also of the drivers who have been without employment for more than 12 weeks.

At the direction of their union leadership, Viva drivers will now continue to strike over a very narrow margin between demands and offers – a margin that is likely to be outweighed by their mounting personal financial losses.

The contractors and unions have had ample time to reach resolution, but continually fail to commit to dedicated negotiations. There remains no urgency whatsoever on either side. This shows an utter disregard for the membership served by the unions and to the ridership left in the cold.

The region’s position to intervene in negotiations has not changed, but we will explore all measures to begin restoring service to riders in the continued absence of negotiations.

Last week, the region introduced 10 Viva buses onto YRT Route 99 and, yesterday, we terminated our First Canada contract in order to source a different provider to begin restoring service. We have also tasked both Miller Transit and York BRT Services to submit a proposal for increased service during the strike period. We will await the results of these submissions and move ahead in the best interests of all York Region residents.


Striking York Region Transit Workers Reject Veolia's Offer


"...The strike is now in its 13th week and has shut down about 60 percent of the region's bus routes. The labour dispute is affecting more than 44,000 riders every day..."


York Region Transit Workers Reject Final Veolia Offer


"..the union representing the striking workers says what YRT is doing is a bullying tactic...'Fisch's tactic of firing one of the contractors in an attempt to intimidate our members did not work,' ATU local 113 president Bob Kinnear said."

what a mess - shouldn't other unions be supporting? Veolia has also been cited as a culprit for its activities in occupied Palestine.



One of the groups involved has a settlement:

[url=http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1120929--tentative-deal-reached-in-y... deal reached in York transit strike[/url]


ATU Local 113, which represents 220 Viva bus employees, reached a tentative deal on Tuesday with Veolia Transport. Union members will vote to ratify the agreement on Thursday.

The tentative deal comes exactly three months after the strike began. York Region has been pressuring the employers to resolve the dispute that has taken 60 per cent of the region’s bus service out of commission and stranded 45,000 riders.

Miller Transit has yet to reach a deal with its striking workers. Negotiations between Miller and ATU Local 1587 are still progressing and will continue Wednesday, said union president Ray Doyle.