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City buses hit road on Friday

City buses will be running again this Friday Aug. 8 and as an added bonus, they’ll be free to ride.
“Transit service will be free for all users until the end of service Aug. 15 to give riders the opportunity to purchase their August bus passes and encourage people to return to transit,” the city’s chief administrative office, Ann Pappert, said in a news release.
The week of free Guelph Transit service follows more than two weeks without service while transit employees were locked out in a contract dispute between the city and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189.
On Aug. 5, union members voted to ratify a second tentative agreement that had been reached on Thursday, July 31.
The rejection by union members of an earlier tentative agreement resulted in the city locking out the workers on July 21.
“This has been a difficult process, but we’ve ended up in a better place,” ATU Local 1189 president Andrew Cleary said in the release. “We are looking forward to getting Guelph moving again this week.” The new contract includes wage increases totaling 6.8 per cent over four years. This means the hourly wage of a transit operator, which was $26.49 as of June 30, 2013, will go up to $28.85 as of June 30, 2017.
Other contract highlights, released following the ratification vote, include a reduction in long-term disability payments from 75 per cent of salary to 70 per cent of salary effective Jan. 1, 2015; a cap on banked lieu time for all employees at 50 hours per calendar year; no changes to extended health or dental benefits; an enhanced grievance resolution process; and a letter of understanding regarding working conditions. During the lockout, working conditions, such as access to washrooms and a lunchroom, were cited as a concern for workers that the earlier contract negotiations had failed to address.
With the union and the city finally in agreement over a contract on Tuesday night, it was still expected to take a couple of days to get buses back on the roads.
To restore service, mechanics, drivers and mobility service employees were being called to report to work on Wednesday to get mobility service running by Thursday Aug. 7, and to road test the 54 vehicles needed to resume regular service by Friday Aug. 8, the release said.
The city is not calling the agreement cause for celebration.
“While we expect to restore transit service in our community by Friday, this isn’t a celebration,” Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge said in Tuesday’s news release. “Guelph’s transit riders and, in particular, the working poor have endured a tremendous hardship throughout this disruption. Tomorrow, the hard work continues as we work to repair the relationship between city administration and our transit employees.”
For riders, transit service will be free for the week from Aug. 7 to 15. The city will be offering two-week bus passes for the remainder of the month for half the price of a one-month bus pass.
The passes will be available at all the regular sale locations. For more information, visit guelph.ca/transit.

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