Striking Out

by Natalie P.

January 20, 2009 | Filed Under The Heartless Bitch Way | 2 Comments

I’ve been behind in posting lately, largely due to this damned transit worker’s strike that has made my life (and that of so many others) a living hell with commuting schedules and FAR too much of my day now eaten up stuck in traffic.  And I’m one of the lucky ones who has a car.  There are many in this city whose livelihoods depend on being able to get to work by bus, and are now in dire financial situations.

In this instance, I firmly believe the union leadership has their collective heads up their asses and has lost touch with reality. The offer on the table was incredibly generous given the current economic climate — it included a pay raises over the next three years, when most people I know are getting either NO increase or pay cuts and many are getting laid off!  Instead, the union rejected this proposal and in the process has crippled the city.  I firmly wish our employment act gave the city the right to shut down the current bus service and outsource it to a non-union shop. There are times and places for unions, and then there are times when union leaderships get power hungry, lose touch with reality, and ultimately destroy the businesses that employ their members – I heard one caller on a radio program yesterday talking about how the union he belonged to ended up killing the paper chain he worked for because of unreasonable demands and a prolonged strike. 

The outstanding issue for the Transit Union appears to be one of “scheduling”. The city wants more control over it because it will result in a substantial cost savings, provide a safer transit system, and require them to run less buses – thereby reducing the environmental impact. The union currently has full control over scheduling drivers.  The new proposal will allow senior members to still have priority over picking their desired routes – it just won’t let them have full control over setting the scheduling.  From what I can see, a small percentage of senior drivers like the fact that under the old contract they could pick schedules which allowed them to get paid for more hours than they actually worked, and they could book some serious overtime. This resulted in some drivers pulling 22 hours of straight shifts, by CHOICE. (And yet, they argue that the city’s proposed changes would make them work more hours and take away from their family time. BULLSHIT).  

The city says that the proposed changes are in the interests of the public safety, and I agree.  They want the union to agree to binding arbitration where the scheduling cannot conflict with Federal Transportation and Safety standards. (For some bizarre reason, our transit service has a special exemption from these standards and many people think that is unacceptable.). The union has yet to respond to the city’s latest offer.

In any case, too much of my day is taken up on driving duty to get family to college and work, and myself and carpool members to and from work. A friend sent this image today and cracked me up. I share the sentiments of the store owners (a gay-oriented sex shop).

Sign in the window of Wildes

I think that if the drivers don’t like the city’s offer, they should quit and get jobs elsewhere. That’s what reasonable, responsible adults do, if we are unhappy with our jobs or salaries. Of course, I’d like to see them make that much money anywhere else (and likely many have no post-secondary education). 

Ironically, one driver called into a radio program asking what the city was going to do to protect them when they go back to work, because public sentiment is so vastly against them now. Buddy, you MADE your bed by voting down a more-than-reasonable offer, now YOU have to deal with the consequences, and that’s going to include some pretty fucking unhappy commuters when the service resumes. Your leadership should have thought of THAT when they leaned on everyone to vote down the latest offer.

The city is now saying that even if the drivers went back TOMORROW, which is not going to happen, it would take up to 3 months to get all the buses re-certified and all transit routes fully functional. They have said they will have to temporarily lay off about 500 junior drivers as a result.  The union leadership says that is just “union busting” talk. No, assholes, it’s REALITY – something you guys seem to have lost a grip on.

Of course, with no transit service, in winter, with several snowstorms to mix things up, traffic has been hellish.  What would normally be a 20 minute ride home, now takes 1-2 hours depending on the weather. And drivers here are, on the whole, STUPID. (See my previous column about the gridlock issues in our city during snowstorms). I once waited 45 MINUTES to go ONE BLOCK because of gridlock at the next intersection.

To minimize the stress and lost hours due to commuting, I’ve adjusted my day to start far earlier than normal, and I’m NOT a morning person, so this also leaves me with less time and energy during my normally “creative” evening hours.   Hence, my blog posting has been somewhat minimalist.

Happily, next week I’ll be on a beach in Cuba, listening to trashy audio books (and a few good ones – I’ve become a huge fan of Audible.com), drinking mojitos, snorkling from time to time, and trying to unwind and *relax* for a few days before returning to -30C temperatures, snowstorms, and commuting hell. 

I dearly wish I could afford to stay there until the end of the transit strike.

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2 comments so far
  1. Amina January 24, 2009 5:01 pm

    While I think unions can, and do, act in completely idiotic ways, I don’t think you should be so harsh on all of the bus drivers themselves, in particular those worried for their safety.

    Certainly the union leadership is behaving irresponsibly, but each individual bus driver isn’t making those decisions. It’s analogous to saying that because America elected George W. Bush, Americans don’t deserve any protection while traveling abroad. Not everyone makes really dumb decisions, but angry people don’t make distinctions between people who agree or disagree with what was decided.

    The expectation that one should be safe at work is a reasonable one. It is not acceptable for an employer to knowingly place an individual employee in danger, no matter that employee’s affiliation.

    Maybe it’s not the city’s job to ensure the bus driver’s safety. I don’t know. But to believe that bus drivers’ have entitled themselves to receive the physical expressions of your frustration because of their union’s actions is immature.

  2. Vijay February 17, 2009 3:08 am

    omg, you are in Ottawa me too.

    I used to walk 40 minutes to st. laurent bus station(absolutely loved it) and then take a shuttle from there to uottawa.

    Didn’t need to do cardio as a result of it.


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