Mayor calls striking Hamilton transit union to come back to negotiating table


Published November 14, 2023 at 8:44 pm

Hamilton city hall politics

Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath has called on the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107, which represents Hamilton’s 800 striking transit workers, to come back to the table after five days on the picket line.

After months of negotiations between the ATU and the city for a new contract, Hamilton Street Railway workers hit the picket lines on Nov. 9. The crux of the disagreements came down to paycheques, with the city offering a 12.75 per cent over four years.

However, the ATU has held firm on its demand for a 21.69 per cent raise over that period. Local 107107 president Eric Tuck called the city’s pay offer “insulting,” in the wake of the city’s newer contracts with other staff which feature higher wages. The city has cited it’s recent agreement with CUPE which features similar raises to the offer to ATU. CUPE represents 3,200 city indoor and outdoor city staff.

Additionally, the ATU maintains that the issue isn’t solely the money but also working conditions. “We don’t get meal breaks, we don’t have standard eight-hour days,” Tuck said, “Many work 10 to 12 hours a day to make that eight hours’ pay. That’s what transit workers do.”

The city has rejected this claim saying, “No operator is driving a full eight hours without breaks and lunches,” given the “recovery time” for each bus for maintenance.

Both sides have dug in their heels in recent days. In press conferences, Horwath has said the city’s offer is “reasonable and will not change.” She’s said the union’s wage demand would put “significant hardship on the people of Hamilton.” Tuck pushed back saying the city’s offer “fails to keep pace with inflation we are on the road to becoming the working poor.”

In her latest statement on the evening of Nov. 14, Horwath called on the union to come back to the negotiating table saying, “the City’s bargaining team has reached out to ATU Local 107 three times since the strike began,” but the ATU rejected these offers.

“That does a disservice to our city, and to the individuals on the picket lines who want us all working hard on their behalf,” she said, “A wage increase higher than [the city’s offer] would be unfair to Hamilton’s other unions and to the people of Hamilton, whose transit fares and property taxes would go up as a result, at a time that’s financially difficult for people.

“That fact won’t change before or after the Grey Cup is played in our great city. It doesn’t mean we have nothing to talk about.” The Grey Cup landed in Hamilton aboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf on Nov. 13 in advance of the game on Nov. 19.

The game will see numerous shuttle buses operating in the vacuum of the striking HSR workers. The ATU has threatened to block these shuttles as part of their strike. Hamilton has not organized the shuttles, they were hired by the event organizers.

“The bargaining table is where both sides can discuss working conditions, benefits and other measures that demonstrate the City’s commitment to its workers and their wellbeing. But we can’t sit there alone,” Howath concluded.

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