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A TTC strike is looming. Will Ontario step in to provide trains or force workers back? |



As transit riders in Toronto prepare for a potentially crippling bus, streetcar and subway strike on Friday, the Ford government is staying tight-lipped on any response from Queen’s Park, including whether it’s developing a contingency plan to help thousands of commuters who could be impacted.

Almost 12,000 Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) employees, including bus and subway drivers, could walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Friday, leaving the city’s transit network in tatters when commuters start to head to work in the morning.

Workers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union would begin the first TTC strike in more than a decade if the City of Toronto and the union can’t reach a deal by the early Friday deadline.

The potential strike would be Toronto’s first since 2008 after provincial legislation that banned TTC drivers from striking was struck down by a court. A 2011 law, introduced under the previous Liberal government, had designated the TTC as an essential service, taking away their right to strike.

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The union has said that, in preparation for Friday’s potential industrial action, practice picket lines have been set up to get workers ready.

Click to play video: 'Exploring North America’s labour unrest during a ‘summer of strikes’'

Exploring North America’s labour unrest during a ‘summer of strikes’

Ontario’s transport minister, however, wouldn’t be drawn on what role Queen’s Park would take in the event of a strike.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, who could find himself directing provincial transit agency Metrolinx to step up its service in an attempt to mitigate the effects of a TTC strike, would not say what plans — if any — were being created.

Metrolinx runs a series of GO train lines with stops around Toronto, while its GO bus network also feeds into the TTC subway at several stations.

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Asked repeatedly if he planned to involve Metrolinx in any response to the strike, Sarkaria said he hoped a deal could be reached.

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“From the capacity of the TTC, it is vitally important to the city, we know that, but as the talks continue we’re very hopeful that they do come to a conclusion,” Sarkaria told Global News.

“There’s still lots of time at the table. We’re not a part of that table at the current moment but we’ll always be working (on) any aspect, any opportunity we have.”

Sarkaria would not say if he plans to direct Metrolinx to step up service in the event of a strike or if meetings have taken place to plan for the eventuality.

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Bill C-58: O’Regan introduces legislation to ban use of replacement workers

Asked if Metrolinx resources would be put forward, he said he was “always going to look at any opportunity” to help or support transit in Toronto.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said it is imperative that Metrolinx ramps up its service if there’s a strike to minimize disruption for commuters.

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“The province should make sure that Metrolinx can fill in as many gaps as possible because we know that there are a number of Metrolinx stops within the city of Toronto and we should be utilizing that by increasing service on those routes,” Schreiner told Global News.

If contract talks fail and workers walk off the job, the Ford government could intervene with back-to-work legislation — a tool the province has routinely used to end transit-related strikes in the past.

But the timing of the legislation as well as support from the opposition parties remains an open question for a government looking to wind down its legislative session for the summer.

Sources told Global News the Ontario legislature is set to rise on Thursday, hours before the strike deadline, meaning Premier Doug Ford would need to recall MPPs to Queen’s Park in order to table and pass back-to-work legislation.

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Opposition parties also indicated they wouldn’t support the government’s efforts to speed up the passage of legislation that would neuter a strike.

“Would I support back-to-work legislation? Absolutely not,” NDP Leader Marit Stiles said flatly.

“We always hesitate to support back-to-work legislation because it’s the one tool that working people have to be able to push back (and) to withhold their labour.”

Click to play video: 'TTC workers’ strike deadline looms'

TTC workers’ strike deadline looms

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie wouldn’t say whether her party would clear the legislative hurdles to pass a back-to-work law quickly.

“Our party supports the collective bargaining process,” Crombie said. “We stand up for our workers and unionized workers and think they know what’s at stake here, the peril of the entire city shutting down.”

While the province didn’t say whether it’s drafting back-to-work legislation, the government has resorted to the measure before.

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In 2018, the government used its majority to legislate York University employees back to work and to scuttle a Power Workers’ Union labour disruption.

In 2022, the Ford government passed legislation to end a strike by education support workers and impose a contract on the union using the notwithstanding clause to override the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The province was forced to back down and withdraw the law after facing backlash from a variety of national public-sector unions, which threatened a general strike.

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