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TTC workers could strike this week, threatening large service disruptions. Here’s what they want | CBC News

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Toronto Transit Commission workers are threatening to walk off the job as early as Friday in a move that could create commuter chaos.

Negotiations are ongoing between TTC and nearly 12,000 workers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union 113 after the union’s collective agreement expired on March 31. The TTC employs about 16,000 staff total, according to the latest CEO report, and ATU 113 represents the largest number of those workers.

Last month, an overwhelming majority of those members voted to go into a strike position. And while both parties were still at the negotiating table last Friday, they have until June 7 to make a deal before workers can walk off the job.

So what are the core issues at the bargaining table?

What we know about workers’ demands

For the TTC frontline workers, the key issue is wages.

Union representatives haven’t said publicly what increase is being asked for, but an ATU news release said, “TTC workers cannot afford to live in the communities they serve.”

Other worker demands, ATU Canada president John Di Nino told CBC News, concern job security, benefits, “dignified working conditions” and workplace safety.

Beyond that, Di Nino declined to go into specifics, saying the union wouldn’t be accused of negotiating through the media.

Di Nino only went so far as to say, “We’re looking for a fair deal that’s going to satisfy the needs of transit workers.”

ATU Canada president John Di Nino says wages are one of the key issues in current collective bargaining for the nearly 12,000 TTC workers his union represents. (CBC)

The ATU news release also noted TTC workers have been dealing with “record levels” of violence on buses and subways. Last year, a spate of violent episodes against commuters and workers led the TTC to put more staff on weekday rides to deter attacks.

The union started running practice pickets last week, in preparation for a possible strike.

Should the practice strike become the real deal, Di Nino told CBC News, “the public should expect that on Friday June 7, there will be no transit service in the city of Toronto.”

What the TTC is saying

TTC executives and board members have said they are optimistic they’ll reach a deal with the union before the end of next week. But they’ve also been vague about their plans in the event of a strike.

“We’ve settled collective agreements with three of our six bargaining units since January of this year, so our optimism isn’t without qualification,” TTC deputy CEO Bruce MacGregor said at a news conference Friday. 

“We believe that we have a fair opportunity to get a deal with this union as well.”

A middle aged man in glasses stands at a podium speaking into a microphone. The mayor of Toronto stands behind him
TTC deputy CEO Bruce MacGregor told reporters Friday that transit services would be inoperable in the event of a strike, despite contingency plans. (CBC)

Asked about a contingency plan if workers walked off the job, MacGregor said TTC had one, but he didn’t say what it would entail.

“A full strike … is going to be devastating to the city. That is always a potential, and we are prepared for that potential,” he said. 

That preparation won’t keep trains moving without workers though, he said. 

“We are not going to be able to operate,” MacGregor said. “That has to be understood.”

What advocates want to see

The advocacy group TTC Riders, which is siding with the union, had volunteers spread out at stations around the city Friday, handing out flyers to commuters and asking them to pressure the city to meet workers’ demands.

TTC Riders spokesperson Chloe Tangpongrush said transit workers deserve a fair deal for difficult work that much of the city relies on.

“This is especially true when TTC’s CEO is at the top of the Sunshine list,” Tangpongrush said. 

TTC CEO Richard Leary was the 63rd highest paid Ontario public sector employee in terms of salary in 2023, earning just over half a million dollars.

A young woman passes a flyer to a woman carrying a baby outside a city transit station on a warm spring day
Chloe Tangpongrush, and other members of advocacy group TTC Riders, were at TTC stations around Toronto Friday encouraging commuters to support TTC workers. (CBC)

“Transit workers have been on the front lines ever since the pandemic,” Tangpongrush said. “They’ve been working really hard to give us the service that we need.”

TTC workers last went on strike in 2008. The strike lasted less than 48 hours, when provincial legislators passed a back-to-work order on a Sunday afternoon, avoiding a service disruption for weekday commuters.

Three years later, a provincial law deemed TTC staff essential workers, barring them from striking. But that law was overturned in court last year. An appeal to that ruling was recently dismissed.

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