March 20, 2023

Talks with striking GO Transit workers advanced after union criticizes Metrolinx for delaying talks

A union representing more than 2,000 GO Transit workers will meet with Metrolinx tomorrow, lambasting the transit agency for delaying bargaining talks and extending a strike they say should never have happened.

GO bus service has been suspended since Monday as members of ATU Local 1587 decided to walk off the job. The strike came after seven months of contract negotiations.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) says Metrolinx initially made an offer to both sides to resume negotiations on Friday, but ATU Local 1587 President Rob Cormier says that after the union pushed for an earlier date, Metrolinx agreed to meet on Thursday.

Metrolinx, meanwhile, has previously accused the union of being “out of negotiations on Sunday afternoon.”

“We cannot understand why they are delaying a meeting at the table,” ATU national president John Di Nino said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Di Nino said Transportation Secretary Caroline Mulroney and Premier Doug Ford should also be at the table to help broker a deal. He says it is incomprehensible that they have been absent during negotiations that have been going on for months.

“You would assume that Caroline Mulroney as transport secretary would have taken an active role in saying, ‘Hey Metrolinx, let’s go to the negotiating table and resolve this.'” She has been absent during seven months of negotiations, Di Nino said.

“This government is failing the province and the taxpayers.”

Mulroney told reporters Wednesday morning that the province wants to make sure the two sides reach an agreement soon so GO bus service can resume.

“Metrolinx has been negotiating with ATU since April,” Mulroney said. “When they come back together, it will be the 21st bargaining session, so we’re going to continue to support Metrolinx as they continue to work to get a good deal with the ATU.”

ATU international vice president and union chief negotiator Manny Sforza said his team never walked away from the bargaining table, but had to call a strike because Metrolinx wanted to continue negotiations for at least another four weeks.

Sforza said over the weekend he was optimistic a tentative deal could be reached because both sides had agreed in principle on three main issues union members wanted to address in their new contract.

Sforza said the first thing members wanted to resolve was to review the language in their contract regarding the layoff, which he said both sides had verbally agreed to over the weekend.

Another issue involved part-time work, which Sforza said was addressed in a written proposal that Metrolinx had also agreed to.

The third issue, according to Sforza, involved the conversion of several part-time station attendants to full-time employees. He said Metrolinx verbally agreed to this, as well as part of a larger business plan, but did not put it in writing.

“If it’s a business plan and you’re going to do it, put three things on the table and we’ll agree to a strike that should never have happened,” Sforza said.

Sforza said Metrolinx’s in-principle agreement to these matters requires the union to agree to four weeks of negotiations to “go back to our members and negotiate.”

Sforza said there’s no reason the two sides can’t get back to the table already, adding that he wants an investigation into the negotiations about Metrolinx’s fraudulent negotiations.

“Why would a government agency do this? I think they want to punish members financially for going on strike. It’s the most egregious thing I’ve ever seen at the bargaining table,” Sforza said.

ATU international president John Costa, who flew in from the US earlier this week, said it was unusual for the two sides not to be at the negotiating table during a strike by key workers such as transport workers.

“When you’re on strike, you’re usually still at the table. When you’re on strike, you usually try to settle it for the public,” Costa said.

“I just want to say to the workers on the line, my members, our members – hold the line, we’ve got your back.”

Metrolinx has previously said that there will be no GO bus service for the time being due to the strike, but GO trains and UP Express trains will continue to run.

The agency said new issues were raised over the weekend that could not be dealt with in time to prevent work action.

With Canadian Press files

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