Head of transit union ‘definitely not optimistic’ about last-minute talks to avoid Hamilton strike
Published November 7, 2023 at 9:00 am
The head of the union for Hamilton’s transit workers says he’s “definitely not optimistic” anything will change to prevent a strike and the suspension of bus service in the city by Thursday.
Eric Tuck, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107, said the City has asked the union back to the bargaining table Tuesday morning (Nov. 7).
Tuck told inthehammer.com Monday night (Nov. 6) that he believes the head of the City’s human resources indicated in public remarks that “there’s nothing more to offer.”
“If they are not prepared to improve on their final offer we will Shut the System down (on Nov. 9),” he wrote in a message to inthehammer.com.
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.
Tuck previously called the final offer “insulting.” He 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.
When asked if the City had any room to budge on its final offer, Lora Fontana, Hamilton’s executive director of human resources, told reporters Monday that “we remain open to having conversations about our final offer.”
During a press conference Monday afternoon, Fontana added that it was uncertain if they could offer more. “Whether or not we’re able to do anything more, we’ll just have to look at what’s being discussed,” she said. “But in terms of our mandate, we did present a final offer and that is exactly it. We might be able to move around certain things but in terms of the mandate, we are basically at the end of what we’re able to provide our offer.”
City officials apologize for ‘inconvenience’ transit strike would cause
Carlyle Khan, acting city manager, said the City received a 72-hour strike notice when it was informed at about 9 p.m. Sunday that ATU 107 members rejected its final collective agreement offer.
“The disruption this will cause Hamiltonians is regrettable but we certainly respect the collective bargaining process,” Khan said during the news conference. “We would like to apologize to our transit partners and community partners for the inconvenience that we know this will cause. Please know that the City is committed to achieving a deal that is fair for workers and fair for the taxpayers.”
He added that the City’s final offer “was consistent with what was settled on by other union partners and which we think is fair.”
Fontana said the City believes its offer ensures that Hamilton transit operators’ compensation “remains competitive with other transit operations.”
As an example, she said the City’s offer to ATU Local 107 would mean that Hamilton transit bus operators would earn about $79,000 in the final year of the four-year agreement. The City said the base wages don’t include wage guarantees, shift premiums or any overtime.
Fontana said Hamilton HSR workers have the third highest salaries, just behind their peers in Mississauga and Brampton, and the proposed offer would preserve their spot in that ranking.
City considering ways to help commuters if transit strike happens
With transit services set to be suspended Nov. 9, the City recommends that HSR customers carpool with neighbours or co-workers. Hamilton has a free carpool matching system at www.smartcommutehamilton.ca. Other options are to walk, cycle, take a taxi or work from home if possible, the City said. There are also bikeshare and e-scooter programs.
City officials said if the strike happens, they would consider making other transportation options such as e-scooters more affordable.
“If we get to Thursday morning and the strike happens, then we will work with our various departments and divisions and with our partners in seeing what can be done at this point in time,” Khan said. “I know that staff are working towards finding solutions and ways of making this easier on the community.”
The City said its final offer had the same annual increases that were just ratified by CUPE Local 5167, the City’s largest union. The offer for transit staff included enhancements to benefits such as increased eye care allowance and increased access to mental health services, the City added.
The City 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.
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