By Jessica Lovell
City transit workers may face a lockout depending on results of a vote on a new contract this Friday, July 11. But the city is being tight-lipped about how a lockout may affect bus service.
“It’s premature to speculate on the vote,” said city general manager of human resources, David Godwaldt, in an email. “Our interest is seeing how the vote goes; however, should the offer be rejected, the city will meet immediately to consider its options – and one of those options is a lockout.” The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 – representing 205 employees including bus drivers, vehicle technicians and others – and the City of Guelph have been in contract negotiations since Oct. 30, 2013.
The union has been in a legal strike position since June 16, the same day the city entered a legal position to lock out its Guelph Transit workers.
On June 26, the city presented what it called its final offer to the union after having reached an impasse in 22 days of bargaining, a news release said.
Union members with a stake in the negotiations will get the opportunity to accept or reject the city’s proposal during Friday’s provincially monitored vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The proposal represents the mandate provided to staff by city council, the release said.
“We hope ATU members compare the offer with transit union agreements in other cities,” Godwaldt said in the release. “If they do, we think they’ll find it is fair and competitive.”
But when asked what would happen to bus service if the workers were to reject the offer and strike, Godwaldt provided no specifics.
If the contract is rejected, the city will meet to decide how to proceed, he said.
“Once the city has made a decision, we will communicate both with the media and the public,” Godwaldt said in response to a Tribune inquiry.
Pressed for further details about what kind of service (if any) transit users could expect in the event of a lockout or a strike, Godwaldt only repeated his previous statement.
“Once the city knows the outcome of the vote, the city will consider its options and will communicate with the public and the media accordingly,” he said.
A request for comment on the situation from the union president received no response as of the Tribune’s deadline.
Though Godwaldt did not offer any suggestions of how the city might avoid service disruptions in the event of a strike or lockout, he did suggest that it is something the city would prefer to avoid.
“I want to assure the citizens of Guelph that the city has no interest in seeing a transit service disruption as it will have serious impacts to the community,” he said.
Results of the vote are expected later in the evening of July 11 and will be announced at that time.
Negotiation updates can be found on the city’s website at guelph.ca/atu.
By Jessica Lovell