Queen’s Park votes to make TTC an essential service

Transit strikes in Toronto are now a thing of the past.

Last Wednesday, Queen’s Park voted 68-9 in favour of making the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service.

“I’ve heard only positive remarks from people, from riders and also from subway drivers,” councillor and TTC chair Karen Stintz said after vote. “It’s a positive change [for the city] in our labour relations, and people will be able to rely on the service while we work through our collective bargaining issues.”

Studies by the TTC have found the main consideration people have in the city is the reliability of transit, said Mike Foderick, Coun. Cesar Palacio’s executive assistant.

“People want the TTC to be there,” Foderick said. “Now it’s going to be here and residents no longer have to worry that a legal strike is going to disrupt their lives.”

The vote in favour of the Essential Service Bill is a victory for Mayor Rob Ford, who wanted the bill to pass into law before the union contract expired.

Many union workers aren’t pleased with the deal.

A 16 McCowan bus driver in Scarborough, who didn’t want her name published, said she fears for her safety on the job and is upset that her right to strike has been taken away.

If Foderick were the TTC union boss, he said, he would assure his workers they are still fully protected by labour relations legislation in Ontario.

“We have some of the best and fairest labour relations legislation anywhere in the world and [TTC union workers] have a very generous collective agreement,” he said.

And besides, Foderick added, transit workers will benefit from the new legislation.

“They’ll be getting a higher settlement and if anything they’ll be getting paid higher,” Foderick said. “The workers will end up with a little bit more money.”

With the new legislation declaring it an essential service, the TTC is now in the same boat as Toronto’s EMS, fire and police services.