News Conference: CAO statement regarding transit union lockout

I echo the Mayor’s concern about the hardship this service disruption will cause for Transit riders. I’m equally concerned for our Transit employees, because this will be a hardship for them and their families.

As the Mayor said, this was not a decision we made lightly.

The City’s negotiating team had a mandate to reach a contract that balances fair and competitive compensation with affordability for transit customers and taxpayers.

The final offer the City put on the table includes in total a 6.4% wage increase over the four years of the contract, including:

  • A 1.7% increase retroactive to July 1, 2013
  • A 1.6% increase effective July 1, 2014
  • A 1.6% increase effective July 1, 2015
  • And a 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.

It is consistent with agreements that other transit unions in Ontario have negotiated with their municipalities – from Sudbury, to London, to Waterloo Region.

And it’s consistent with agreements the City of Guelph has negotiated with its other unions over the years.

In contrast, ATU’s requests would lead to 4.6 million dollars in additional costs to Transit’s budget over three years. That’s equivalent to a property tax increase of 2.3% over three years just to fund this one service – an unacceptable financial impact to our community.

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.

Contrast that with the City’s offer of a four-year deal that would add less than a million dollars to the City budget or approximately 0.5 per cent over the four years of the agreement.

So, why is the City taking this action now?

This has been an 18-month process with 22 days of negotiations, including 7 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.

For example:

  • After 18 months, ATU has still not tabled any wage or benefit proposals.
  • ATU did not respond to the City’s first offer within the timeline provided – which led us to make a second and final offer that would be voted on by members.
  • For the last three days of bargaining, ATU’s chief negotiator would not even come in the room to meet with the provincially-appointed conciliator face to face.

Through it all, the City’s negotiating team has been present, ready, and willing to negotiate – as has always been our practice with all of our unions.

In short, this process has dragged on far too long, and made far too little progress.

In the interests of transit riders, the community, and transit employees, we presented a fair and competitive final offer. It is my hope that transit employees will take time to reconsider the offer and take a second vote to avoid this service disruption.

As the Mayor said, we recognize all of this is cold comfort to those who rely on transit in our community.

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.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss what can now happen on Monday.

Members of ATU Local 1189 will be in a legal position to picket. As City staff and members of the public come to City Hall and other City facilities, they should be prepared to cross picket lines. Assistance will be available if necessary.

ATU has a legal right to share information. We expect and require all employees, members of the public, and picketing union members to remain respectful of one another.

We also expect all City of Guelph employees who are not members of ATU to report to work on Monday. We are working to limit the effects picketing can have on other City services.

We will keep the media aware of any new developments. The public can visit guelphtransit.ca for updates on picket line locations, service disruptions, and alternate transportation.

Thank you. We will now take any questions.