Winnipeg Transit union brings in international president to help contract negotiations

By | June 11, 2019

The Amalgamated Transit Union local representing Winnipeg Transit drivers is pulling out all the stops as it tries to get contract talks with the city rolling again.

ATU Local 1505 has brought John Costa, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, in from Washington, D.C., to Winnipeg to help with its negotiation strategy.

A lot is at stake because the Winnipeg members overwhelmingly voted to reject the city’s last contract offer, Costa said.

“Group members want to strike,” he said during a news conference on Tuesday.

“They are tired of the work rules [around] the schedules. They are very tight. They can’t go to the bathroom. This causes conflict with the riders. It’s not good for the community. It’s not good for the driver’s safety. It’s not good for passenger safety.”

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which represents about 1,400 drivers, mechanics and other Winnipeg Transit workers, voted by 97 per cent to reject the four-year deal last week.

Some of the issues include wage increases, along with the city’s proposal to hire as many as 200 part-time workers. These workers would be paid $10 per hour less than regular bus drivers, with no benefits or pension, said ATU Local 1505 spokesperson Zach Fleisher.

The city says it was disappointed by the vote result that rejected its contract offer, which it considers fair and reasonable. The offer included wage increases over the course of the four-year contract, the city said in an email statement.

“We also strived to offer employees a better work/life balance with the introduction of flexible spare operator positions (which are part-time positions), along with formalizing the shift switches and trades process,” the statement said.

Costa says he’ll be in Winnipeg for as long as it takes to get a contract. The union has a mandate to strike, he said, after refusing last week’s offer, and voting against an earlier offer in April by 98 per cent.

“We don’t want to strike. We don’t want to hurt the business leaders, the business community or the citizens. But the city government needs to do the right thing here. And management needs to recognize and settle this contract for the workers here,” he said.

The rejected deal, which the City of Winnipeg said was its final offer, included a zero per cent wage increase this year, followed by three annual wage hikes of 1.75 per cent.

As its first job action after rejecting the latest offer, the union last week banned its members from signing up for voluntary overtime.