Hamilton transit union’s wage proposal ‘unsustainable for taxpayers,’ City says

By

Published November 8, 2023 at 9:00 am

Hamilton transit union Amalgamated Transit Union strike bus public transit
ATU Local 107 members line up to vote on the City of Hamilton's final offer on Nov. 5. COURTESY OF KEN WILSON VIA X

The City of Hamilton says the union representing over 800 public transit workers proposed an increase in wages that “would be unsustainable” for taxpayers, though the union argues that its offer is in line with senior bureaucrats’ recent salary hikes and keeps pace with inflation.

The City posted a letter Tuesday evening advising residents to prepare for a strike Thursday, Nov. 9 because last-minute talks had broken off.

“The ATU Local 107’s offer significantly exceeds the City’s offer on wages alone,” the City wrote. “This increase would be unsustainable for Hamilton taxpayers. Further, it would create significant instability in the labour relations environment in the early stages of the bargaining cycle with the City’s 11 bargaining units.”

The City reiterated that its final offer “is fair and reasonable.”

The offer meant HSR workers would remain the third highest-paid transit employees in Ontario, behind Mississauga and Brampton, the City said.

The offer included enhancements to benefits such as increased eye care allowance and increased access to mental health services.

The City added that its proposed wage increases are nearly identical to the deal ratified by over 3,000 CUPE 5167 inside and outside workers in September.  

Hamilton Street Railway service and myRide on-demand service are set to be suspended at the start of the service day at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9.  However, accessible transportation services offered by the contractor DARTS won’t be affected.

Transit union ‘unwilling to reduce its monetary demands,’ City says

The City said its public transport agency Hamilton Street Railway’s meeting Tuesday with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 ended when the union “indicated that it was unwilling to reduce its monetary demands and would not agree to strike protocols that would have seen the City administer union members’ benefits while on strike and create guidelines for respectful workplace behaviour.”

The Hamilton Street Railway’s offer would have resulted in an annual salary of $79,726 in the fourth year of the agreement, an increase of 12.75 per cent. 

ATU Local 107 asked for a 21.69-per-cent wage hike over the next four years, amounting to a base annual salary of $86,860 in the fourth year, the City said.

The HSR proposed wage increases of 3.75 per cent in the first year, and three per cent for each of the remaining three years until 2026.

“(Hamilton Street Railway) had zero intention of settling a potential strike. PR games won’t stop the pending strike. Transit workers risked their own health (and) safety during Covid. Time to pay up! You took yours $$ we want ours,” wrote Ken Wilson, international vice-president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, in a post on social media platform X on Tuesday night responding to the City’s letter.

Calling the final offer “insulting,” Eric Tuck, president of the ATU Local 107,  said the union’s request for a four-per-cent wage increase is in line with what the City gave non-union staff.

He said 1,100 non-union staff, such as managers and project managers, earn $120,000 to $160,000 a year and recently received a four-per-cent base wage hike along with a market adjustment of up to an extra 11 per cent.

“By accepting another deal that fails to keep pace with inflation we are on the road to becoming the working poor, and that simply isn’t acceptable or fair,” Tuck said in a statement on Oct. 25.

‘We really didn’t see any opportunity to progress,” head of transit union says

In a video update posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, Tuck said the union met with HSR at the Sheraton hotel that morning. 

Tuck said the union then asked HSR “whether or not they were there to bargain and if they had anything further to offer by way of an enhanced package.”

Ninety-four per cent of ATU Local 107 members had rejected the City’s final offer on Sunday. “The employer has advised they did not and with that, we really didn’t see any opportunity to progress so the parties agreed to end the day at that point,” he said in the video Tuesday. “We will complete all service on Wednesday till the end of service (on Nov. 8) and then … unfortunately, we really regret to inform you that we will be withdrawing our services and going on strike on Thursday.”

Tuck said he would keep the public posted on the situation. The City is also posting updates here

Despite the impasse in negotiations, the City indicated in its letter Tuesday night that it was optimistic.

“We want to assure the public that we are taking all measures to reduce the impact of the transit disruption on the community and to ensure that we can avoid major disruptions to City events and celebrations, such as Remembrance Day and the Grey Cup,” said Carlyle Khan, acting city manager, in a statement. “We value the relationship with all of our unions, and we are confident that we will overcome this impasse to find an agreement that is fair for workers and sustainable for taxpayers.”  

 

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising