On December 10th, Local 279, the OC Transpo Alamagamated Union which includes drivers and mechanics, walked off the job and began a city-wide strike. Add the biggest snowfall of the early winter season on the same day and you get a thick soup of traffic and headaches the likes Ottawa has not seen in a very long time.
Andre Cornellier, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union states that this strike is based on ‘dignity and respect’ and isn’t about money. I call that pure BS. It is about money, and its about power and greed, nothing more.
I find it funny that he says that this is about dignity and respect, yet Cornellier shows absolutely no respect to the citizens of Ottawa. How has Cornellier and the union showed their utter lack of respect for the public that they serve?
- When schools tried to organize getting their students to school using yellow school buses, the union first threatened to picket schools. They later backtracked and said that they’d only picket school bus depots so busses couldn’t leave or enter.
- They are picketing public and private parking lots downtown so that the public who managed to use a car and/or carpool to work are even more inconvenienced. Like the 30cm of snowfall and hundred of thousands of extra cars on the road wasn’t inconvenient already.
- They chose to strike at the worst possible time of the year. Students are in the middle of exams, it’s the Christmas shopping season and the weather makes alternate modes of transportation (IE: walking, biking) an big issue.
- When interviewed by the media, Mr. Cornellier responds in grunts and one word answers, saying we the public wouldn’t understand why they are on strike.
Where is the respect for those students who can’t make it to their exams and flunk their semester? There’s also those students who can only attend school due to grants and bursaries who will lose those for failing due to missing their final exam. Lets not forget the students who work one or two jobs on top of their studies who still live below the poverty line
Where’s the respect for the elderly, young parents and those without cars who only have public transportation as an option? There are a number of these people who count on OC Transpo to go to the doctor, do their groceries and visit loved ones. Please explain to me how you’re being respectful to those who will spend the holidays alone because they don’t have any way to visit their loved ones.
Where’s the respect to those who depend on the bus to get to and from work. Those who live to far to walk or bike and cannot carpool. People who will lose their jobs because they don’t have any alternate ways of transportation to get to work.
Where’s the respect to business owners who will have to close their doors because shoppers can’t go out and do their Christmas shopping, the season where most stores go in the black. Not only are they being hit by the current economical climate, but you’re making things exponentially worse.
Where’s the respect to families? Those who now have to spend 3 hours to get to their job, spend 8 hours at work, then another 3 hours to get home. Add to that 6-8 hours of sleep and that just leaves 2-4 hours for families to spend together. Take away a few hours to do chores and cooking, and that may leave an hour for families to spend together at best. Nothing puts people into the Christmas season spirit better than being forced away from their families.
So why exactly are 2200 OC Transpo employees on strike? Is it because of the 7% raise over 3 years that was offered? Is it for the 2 additional sick days that you get to carry over year after year? Or maybe it was the added money in regards to purchasing work boots, less waiting time for maternity leave or the 2000$ signing bonus. No, the reason OC Transpo decided to go on strike is because the union does not want to give up ownership of creating the work schedule for drivers. GIVE ME A BREAK! Ottawa is the only city in North America where the scheduling is not in the hands of the owners (in this case, the city of Ottawa). Heck, you can add Europe and Australia to that list too! The city stands to save 3 to 4 million dollars a year by taking over the scheduling. They also have stated that drivers with seniority will still have the option to choose their routes/times. The real reasons are that the union does not want to expose the corruption that exists with the current system, and that they want to keep the power for themselves. Corruption you ask? These are only rumours, but I’ve heard it many times by many different people that there has to at least a grain of truth to it. There’s supposedly a loophole in the system and here’s how it works. A driver will arrange with a buddy to call in sick. He calls in sick at the last minute, still gets paid for his shift. His buddy offers to take his route and makes time and a half. Win-win situation for the driver, lose-lose situation for us taxpayers who pay these guys’ salary. Ignoring this rumour, the scheduling fiasco is about not seceding any kind of power to the city and being afraid of change. Just because something has been a certain way for decades does not mean there’s no better way of doing things. The city wants to take over the scheduling not only to save money but also to improve service to those who use the very same public transportation that we pay for through our taxes.
We are currently living in a bad economical breakdown that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression, and the union turns down a 7% raise over 3 years? ARE YOU CRAZY! Do you know how many people would love to just keep their jobs, let alone get a raise of that magnitude? My raises over the last few years hasn’t even covered the cost of living increases. Heck, this year no one at my company got a raise, and we won’t get one next year either. I won’t even get into those who have lost their jobs due to cuts or businesses closing their doors. You should count yourselves lucky that you have a job to go to. Count yourselves even luckier that you have the nice salaries that you do for sitting on your behinds all day driving around the city.
Some drivers are complaining that the money doesn’t make up for the abuse that they take from some riders. Well guess what, as a bus driver, you’re part of the service industry. Do you think you’re alone in getting that kind of abuse? Try working as a waiter/waitress, driving a cab, working a help desk, or any service industry position that you can think of, and every single one of them have to take abuse from customers. You chose this line of work, no one put a gun to your head to drive busses, and you knew that this is part of the job. If you can’t put up with it, find yourself another job.
As an Ottawa taxpayer and OC Transpo rider, I am very much like the bus pictured on the right; I’m taking the shaft in the behind, and I am sick of it. You are holding the city as a hostage as a negotiation tactic. I sincerely hope that city councellors don’t give in to your demands and stick to their guns. Enough is enough. Our taxes pay your salaries and you exist to serve the public. You then turn around and hold us hostage and create havok to further your own agenda.
Respect is earned, not given. With your immoral tactics, your total lack of respect for your customers and employers, your choice of timing to strike and your total disregard for this city you have completely lost any shred of respect that I had. You only have yourselves to blame for it.