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Toronto Commuters Brace for Friday Strike as Transit Talks Stall



(Bloomberg) — Labor talks between the City of Toronto and unionized transit workers have stalled hours before a strike that threatens to disrupt more than 1.5 million commuters in Canada’s most populous city.

“We’re at an impasse right now,” Marvin Alfred, local president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said Thursday in a press conference, adding that things fell apart in the past 24 hours. “Until further notice, we’re going on strike,” he said in a later interview.

Workers for the city’s Toronto Transit Commission are preparing to stop work at 12:01 a.m., shutting down bus and subway services in a city. Toronto is Canada’s financial hub, home to four of the nation’s biggest banks, the largest insurance companies and scores of financial firms clustered in the downtown core.

Almost 12,00 union members have been seeking higher wages and greater job security in a new labor agreement. The last contract expired at the end of March. The union represents mechanics, operators and maintenance workers for the system. This would be the first strike by TTC workers since 2008.

Both sides agreed to keep subway service running until 2 a.m. Friday so people aren’t stranded at night. The TTC’s Wheel-Trans service for disabled people will also be unaffected by labor action.

“These are signals that we can find common ground on some issues, and we believe there’s enough goodwill and there’s enough progress on the substantive issues that we can reach an agreement,” TTC spokesman Stuart Green said Thursday in an interview.

Businesses, schools and health care operators already bracing for a potential strike, are encouraging people to turn to alternative transportation options.

University Health Network, Canada’s largest network of hospitals, said patient appointments and procedures will go ahead as scheduled and some virtual appointments will be available.

If transit service stops, the Ontario government could introduce back-to-work legislation to require binding arbitration, effectively ending the strike. The union vows to fight if that happens.

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