Our daily lives got messed with big time this week when TTC employees walked off the job. While observers are indulging in an orgy of vilification, we offer a parsing of what's pissing off the union.
What prompted Monday's wildcat?
Don't believe for a second the work stoppage had to do with the transfer of a few dozen janitorial staff from day to night shift, as some TTC officials are claiming. You don't get TTC employees by the thousands staying off the job over a scheduling conflict.
The big issue
From the union's point of view, it's management's "contempt," as one union insider puts it, for the collective bargaining agreement that is causing low morale. The union says management has dragged its feet or refused to move on a host of issues, including re-evaluating salaries. Management only recently installed carbon monoxide detectors on maintenance vehicles used in subway tunnels, after a crew was overcome by fumes.
The real thorn in the union's side
Workplace safety - especially management siding with riders when complaints or confrontations do occur (everything from being punched, kicked, slapped and spat on). As Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 prez Bob Kinnear writes in the union's newsletter, "We hate the What could you have done to prevent this assault against you?' questions that we are asked after we have been attacked."
Figures lie and liars figure
Most of the assaults that the union is complaining about are minor in nature. According to TTC stats, only one worker in the last five years has been hospitalized. Also, operators assaulted three or more times in the last three years account for 25 per cent of the total number of assaults. This suggests that there may be problem drivers - those a little too eager to pick a fight over fares - and problem routes.
What's stuck in the union's craw
Management's refusal to pay operators who take time off after an assault sick benefits equal to 100 per cent of their salary. The TTC has also appealed to Divisional Court an arbitrator's decision ordering management to cover the provincial tax on workers' OHIP premiums.
Behind the bluster
It's taken a while, but TTC management has actually agreed to install cameras on TTC vehicles after an Operator Assault Task Force came back with its report in September 2002.
Where paranoia comes in
The union doesn't want the cameras trained on drivers, for fear they may be used for disciplinary purposes. TTC general manager Rick Ducharme has given his word that "vehicle cameras will not be used for discipline." But the union suspects the cameras could be used in future to monitor vehicles and drivers.
The union claim that's hard to believe
That "dozens" of drivers have been fired for minor violations of policy, including finishing their routes early. But when pressed for specifics, the union keeps bringing up the same example - the case of Bobby Lowe.
What's fare is fair
The union agrees that disputes over fares contribute to the majority of assaults and conflicts between drivers and riders. The union says drivers are obligated to collect fares or risk discipline for not doing their job. So why not do as the union has suggested and implement an automated fare collection and transfer validation system? Because it costs too much. It may, however, be a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run than the legal battles that end up in arbitration.
The burning question
Did Kinnear order the wildcat or did rogue elements in the ATU lead workers out? Kinnear never explicitly ordered workers out. In fact, he advised workers against a wildcat earlier this month lest they "give management ammo" to justify disciplining union members. But he also told workers then that he would support them 100 per cent "under any circumstances." You be the judge.