Last-minute HSR talks fail to produce deal, Hamilton transit strike set for Thursday

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Published November 7, 2023 at 5:11 pm

Eric Tuck president Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 ATU Local 107 HSR Hamilton Street Railway transit bus
Eric Tuck, president of the union for HSR workers, says in a video that the union remains "committed to the bargaining process."

The union for Hamilton’s public transit workers says last-minute talks this morning with the City didn’t get anywhere and they will be proceeding with their strike on Thursday, Nov. 9.

In a video update posted on Facebook today, Eric Tuck, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107, said the union met with the Hamilton Street Railway this morning (Nov. 7) at the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. After waiting about two hours, the union received “a strike picket protocol” from HSR, the employer, he said. HSR requested the union consider signing it, but Tuck said it declined to do so.

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 his 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.”

In a letter posted on social media Tuesday night, the City reiterated that its final offer “is fair and reasonable.”

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

“We remain committed to the bargaining process and ready to return to the table at any time should the employer have an improved offer or something more that we can take back to our membership,” he added.

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. 

The City said its final offer had the same annual increases that were recently 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.

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.

“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.

City says it is working towards finding ‘ways of making this easier on the community’

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 will 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,” said Carlyle Khan, acting city manager, during a press conference Monday. “I know that staff are working towards finding solutions and ways of making this easier on the community.”

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.”

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