On July 11, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 members voted to reject the City of Guelph’s final contract offer.
The City believes it has exhausted all traditional negotiation options and, with the support of Guelph City Council, made the difficult decision to lock out the 205 members of ATU Local 1189 and suspend traditional Guelph Transit service as of 12:01 a.m. July 14. Guelph Transit Mobility Service for existing pre-booked medical appointments (for example, dialysis appointments) will continue during the labour disruption.
“We are very disappointed in the result of this vote,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge. “The decision to lock out our transit employees was not made lightly. We know this will create enormous hardship for transit riders, for our transit staff and their families, and for our community.”
The City is providing a refund to affordable bus pass holders for the rest of July available starting on Tuesday, July 15 at City Hall. Further steps will be taken for all pass holders depending on the duration of the lock out.
Council has been advised that ATU’s combined extra requests and wage parity with Grand River Transit would cost taxpayers 4.6 million dollars over the next three years. That equates to a tax increase of almost 2.3 per cent over three years – solely to fund the delivery of transit.
“Council cannot in good conscience contemplate such a financial impact on transit riders and property taxpayers,” continued Mayor Farbridge. “Our goal from the beginning has been to reach an agreement that balances fair and competitive compensation with affordability for transit customers and taxpayers.”
There is no good time for a service disruption, but City staff chose to make this decision now, when transit ridership is at its lowest, rather than in the fall when ridership goes up by nearly 60 percent.
“It is my sincere hope that our transit employees will take a second look at the City’s final offer this weekend – it represents a fair and competitive contract for our employees and is respectful of those who pay for the service. We hope to have our community’s transit service up and running again as soon as possible,” said Mayor Farbridge.
The City’s final offer to ATU Local 1189 includes in total a 6.4% wage increase over the four years of the contract, including:
-1.7% increase retroactive to July 1, 2013
-1.6% increase effective July 1, 2014
-1.6% increase effective July 1, 2015
-1.5% increase effective July 1, 2016
The offer protects all employee benefits and vacation entitlements, which are consistent with those of the City’s other unions. The offer is also consistent with agreements that other transit unions in Ontario have negotiated with their municipalities including Sudbury, Brantford and Waterloo Region.
“The ATU requests would require an additional 20 to 30 unionized staff – a 10 per cent increase to the number of unionized staff with no improvement to transit service as a result,” stated the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Ann Pappert.
The negotiations have included an 18-month process with 22 days of negotiations, including seven with a provincially-appointed conciliator brought in at the City’s request.
“Unfortunately, from the outset, we have been met with unexplained and lengthy delays from ATU – which signals one of two things: they are unwilling or unable to bargain,” continued Pappert
The City’s offer of a four-year deal that would add less than one million dollars to the City budget or an approximately 0.5 per cent increase to property taxes over the four years of the agreement.
“We recognize all of this is cold comfort to those who rely on transit in our community,” said Pappert. “We have taken the unusual step of providing two days’ notice before the lockout begins. This is the maximum amount of notice we can provide, to give transit riders time to seek alternate means of transportation while still maintaining the safety and security of customers, staff, and property.”
The City will continue posting negotiation updates at guelph.ca/atu or updates on service disruption, FAQs and transportation alternatives at guelphtransit.ca.