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Not in service

London transit workers on strike

by Alex Balch - Linchpin


LONDON, Ont. — Workers of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 741 went on strike at midnight Nov. 16, when the deadline for a new contract passed unheeded by their employer, the London Transit Commission (LTC). ATU-741 represents 450 bus drivers, maintenance workers and support staff, and the strike has effectively paralyzed London’s public transit system.

The workers of the LTC have been without a contract since June. Chief among their demands are regularly scheduled lunch breaks, a 12 per cent wage increase over three years and improvements to dental and short-term disability benefits. The union has repeatedly requested arbitration as a means of settling the dispute, but their requests have been blocked by LTC general manager Larry Ducharme and the city’s mayor, Anne Marie DeCicco-Best.

DeCicco-Best slammed the workers’ demands as “irresponsible” at a press conference the day before the deadline was set to expire, citing the fact that London has been particularly hard hit by the current economic downturn. She also vowed to wage a public-relations war to inform Londoners of the “true costs” to the LTC and taxpayers of meeting the union’s demands.

The union responded by pointing to the fact that they are paid significantly less than their counterparts in other municipalities, and their benefit packages trail far behind workers in most other unionized sectors.

The day the strike started, the University of Western Ontario announced the creation of a “community van” program for students living off campus. Union representatives responded by labeling the initiative a form of strike-breaking and threatened to picket the university. Despite receiving the support of the university’s faculty union, the resulting outcry from students, who make up a large percentage of the LTC’s 75,000 daily fares, eventually drove the ATU-71 rank-and-file to vote against picketing the school.

Fanshawe College has since quietly announced a new contingency plan of their own — a shuttle service connecting the main campus to a secondary downtown campus that houses the college’s drama department. Fanshawe’s administration has been quick to avoid having the shuttle service labeled as strike-breaking.

“We are not trying to mount a replacement bus system to London Transit, which is a vital service . . . We respect the right to strike,” said Fanshawe College spokesperson Jeff Sage upon announcement of the shuttle service.

The days following the announcement of the strike have seen a backlash, perhaps best epitomized by radio announcers on London’s CJBK 1290 recently supporting callers to spit on bus drivers when they eventually return to the job.

Popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter have also seen a spike in groups and individuals heaping scorn on the city’s transit workers.

Despite this, the union remains steadfast in their demands for better benefits and modest wage increases that would set their salaries in line with their counterparts in Windsor and Kitchener.

This article was originally published on www.linchpin.ca


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Comments

good sources

www.altlondon.org has good scoops on LTC srtike stuff

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