Ontario Legislates End to TTC Strike

Toronto's public transit system will be back up and running as early as Sunday evening now that Ontario MPPs have ordered striking transit workers back on the job.

The back-to-work legislation was approved unanimously after less than 30 minutes of debate. The bill was given royal assent and officially approved by 2:45 p.m.

TTC service, which came to a halt Friday at midnight, is expected to resume by Sunday evening. Full service will be in place in time for the Monday morning rush.

TTC StrikeOntario Premier Dalton McGuinty told his colleagues that supporting the legislation is in the best interest of not only Toronto but the entire province.

"It goes without saying that Toronto, our capital city, plays an important role for all Ontarians," he said.

"By acting on behalf of  Toronto workers, families and businesses, we are acting in the best interest of all Ontarians."

Liberal Labour Minister Brad Dugid said the government respects the collective bargaining process but that action needed to be taken to end the disruption to commuters.

"We encourage the TTC and its unions to continue bargaining and to reach mutually acceptable agreements," he told the legislature. "At the same time, we cannot stand by while the dispute shuts down the vital transportation system in Toronto, affecting millions of people and businesses."

Bob Kinnear, the head of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said in a news release issued shortly after the government announcement that members are being asked to return to work as soon as they can.

"We would have preferred a negotiated settlement that addressed the reasons why the previous TTC offer was rejected so strongly by our members," Kinnear said. "We made several proposals to the TTC on Saturday but all of them were turned down because they knew we would be legislated back to work."

Commuters owed an apology: MPPs

McGuinty also called on Toronto commuters to extend their usual courtesy with TTC workers and be mindful of the service they provide. However, other MPPs called on union officials to formally apologize to Torontonians for going on strike with only an hour's notice.

Conservative MPP Bob Runciman said people were put in danger when they were left downtown stranded without a way to get home. Fellow Tory MPP Peter Shurman said people are angry that they were not shown the respect they were promised.

Early on in the negotiations, union leaders said they would give the public at least 48 hours notice of a strike. But they reneged on their promise because of a fear that TTC workers would be abused by an irate public.

"People are angry and justifiably so," Shurman said during the session. "People want dependability, people want courtesy."

"If you want respect, you have to give respect," he continued. "On behalf of the people who use the TTC, I do believe the union owes Toronto an apology."

NDP Leader Howard Hampton said his party supports the legislation but not without reservation. He also said getting the TTC back up and running serves the public interest as 1.5 million riders depend on public transit to get to work, school and daily appointments.

Toronto Mayor David Miller said he will speak to the media about the latest development late Sunday afternoon.  

Gary Webster, the general manager of the TTC, said Sunday morning if the province gives them the go-ahead, they will have the public transit system back up and running "as soon as possible."

Because the NDP and the Conservatives supported the legislation,  the ruling will take effect immediately. If they had opposed the legislation then it would take about five days before TTC service could resume.

The order will:

  • Call for the strike to end immediately after Royal Assent is given;
  • Impose fines of $2,000 per day on individuals and $25,000 per day for the union or employer; and
  • Refer outstanding issues to a mediator or arbitrator

Police monitor traffic

Late on Friday, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 voted down a tentative settlement that its executive had recommended.

By midnight, the 8,900 Toronto Transit Commission employees were on strike, shutting down public transportation in Canada's largest city. On a typical day, the system is believed to move about 1.5 million people.

The union had promised 48 hours notice before, but ended up giving only about 90 minutes notice on Friday.

Sgt. Brian Bowmen, with Toronto police traffic services, said there have not been major traffic problems because of the strike. He said police were keeping a close eye on the city's Entertainment District for drivers who had a few drinks before hitting the road.

"We are generally pleased with the way things have been going," he told CTV.ca Sunday afternoon. "We haven't had a real spike in incidents."

He said that police have been able to manage without having to put extra officers on duty.

"What we're seeing is that people who don't need to be downtown are not coming  down because they anticipate it's problematic," he said.

"At the end of the day, what we're seeing from a police perspective and a traffic perspective things have gone as reasonable as we can expect."

Despite the strike call, the two sides did attempt a few hours of negotiations on Saturday before things broke down.

The reason for the strike is believed to be discontent among 3,000 maintenance workers, who feel that contracting out of some of their work will lead to job losses.

The TTC has said warranty work on new vehicles is being done by the manufacturer, but added that union members are even doing much of that.

Despite the inconvenience, the city essentially functioned on Saturday.

People without cars had to rely on friends or taxis for vehicle-based transit.

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