The head of the TTC workers union is threatening unspecified job action following the commission's decision to contract out bus cleaning services, going so far as to suggest that employees may stop monitoring fare boxes in retaliation.
At a meeting at City Hall Thursday, commissioners voted four to three to hire a pair of private companies to supply cleaning and maintenance services at two TTC bus garages. The outsourcing is intended to save the cash-strapped commission $1 million a year, with the eventual aim of contracting out work at all eight of the commission's bus facilities.
After the vote, dozens of union members protesting the decision stormed out of the packed committee room shouting "Shame!" and "War!" Speaking to reporters outside, Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, vowed that his members would find ways to make their anger known to TTC CEO Andy Byford and the rest of the commission brass.
"Mr. Byford is going to find out very clearly the displeasure of all of the members of our union," Kinnear said.
"Conceivably, some of our operators may not notice the fare box has been shortchanged. There's all sorts of things that we can do."
"We will fight this. We will fight this to the end," he added.
Because of provisions in the union's collective bargaining agreement, no TTC employees will lose their jobs as a result of the outsourcing. Instead, private sector workers will replace roughly 160 positions that have been left vacant through attrition.
But the union and its supporters framed the board's decision as an assault on workers that will lower employment standards across the city and replace well-paying positions with "poverty jobs."
TTC workers currently receive just over $27 an hour to clean, refuel, and service the buses. While there are no wage provisions in the contracts being awarded to the two cleaning companies, Topnotch and Hallcon, their employees are expected to make much closer to minimum wage to do the same work.
"We are virtually declaring war on our workers today. They will retaliate," Councillor Maria Augimeri, one of the TTC commissioners who opposed the outsourcing, told the board.
But Byford argued that the TTC is under severe pressure to find savings internally, given that Mayor Rob Ford has made it clear the city will not increase the subsidy it gave to the TTC in 2012, despite increased ridership projections for next year.
"Ultimately this is about getting the best value for money for the taxpayer, and for the rider," he said. "I do not want to cut routes, I do not want to raise fares more than I have to, and I know I'm not going to get any more subsidy."
As stipulated in its collective bargaining agreement, the ATU was given the opportunity to bid on the cleaning contract in an effort to keep the work in-house, but failed to match prices quoted by Topnotch and Hallcon.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said the commission told Kinnear that if his members would accept a lower wage of $18 an hour they could have the contract, but the union rejected the offer.
Kinnear flatly denied the TTC ever made such a proposal, saying Stintz had "bought into the bullshit" being told to her by TTC management.
In a scrum after the meeting, Stintz said she would not tolerate any attempts by workers to retaliate against the outsourcing by sabotaging TTC operations.
"If there's any action taken, we're prepared for it," she said.
"I expect that every TTC employee that comes to work will do their job."