Talks resume as York Region commuters face bus blockades

After a quiet weekend, Viva bus drivers resumed picketing at Finch Station during Monday’s morning commute.

Over 20 disgruntled bus drivers from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 delayed York Region Transit buses by three minutes each, slowing traffic in both directions near the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area. Ana Hoffman, who has been working for Viva for about three years, said she was just exercising her right to strike.

“To be honest, we are paid less than TTC and Brampton Transit workers,” Hoffman said. “This isn’t about wages. We were promised (a) pension when we were hired and we still don’t have one.”

On Sept. 26, over 160 Viva bus drivers walked off the job after a deal was rejected by 61 per cent of the local membership. As a result, about 35, 000 commuters who rely on Viva took alternate routes to work or school.

Hoffman, 46, said she and her fellow employees have worked for Veolia Transportaion Inc. without a contract for over two years.

However, Monday afternoon, York Region Transit General Manager Don Gordon confirmed Veolia Transporation Inc. and the union have agreed to resume talks this week with the help of a provincially appointed mediator.

“The ultimate goal is just to get a deal. Whether or not they can accomplish that in one day remains to be seen,” Gordon said. “It’s a critical first step getting the two parties to agree to get back at the table.”

Gordon hopes the strike will not shake rider confidence in the Viva transit system.

“The longer this goes on, the more harmful it is for everyone,” Gordon said. “We’re anxious to see a quick resolution.”

Hoffman agreed, but says she will not give up until an acceptable contract is ratified.

“We understand (the passengers) have issues with us right now,” Hoffman said, “but they have to understand us.”

The two parties will go back to the negotiating table Oct. 1. For now, York Region officials have asked commuters to seek alternate transportation such as