End of Days

I’m not sure whether I should declare Rona Ambrose’s decision to introduce back to work legislation in the public transit strike tomorrow a moral maneuver, or if I should instead give it a nod as proof that whining and moaning always wins the day. But, you know, moralistic or escapist, I’ll gladly accept it all the same.

Ambrose announced that she was willing to introduce legislation at the same time that MPs were agreeing to hold an emergency debate on the issue tomorrow. In order for the legislation to be expedited, all parties would have to give their support.

I think we know where this is going.

Already, the political hand-wringing has begun. Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mauril Belanger bristled at the fact that Ambrose decided to go this route at the same time that he was moving to have a debate on the subject. Quoted from the Ottawa Citizen:

“I asked the Speaker for an emergency debate on the strike and once the Speaker said ‘yes,’ the government then decided to act,” Belanger said.

“If they want to have any legislation to have a hope of being passed quickly, they have to talk to the opposition. If they don’t talk to us, they don’t have a hope of any legislation being passed.”

So, basically, his nose is out of joint because she did something bigger than what he did. What a bitch she is for doing the right thing (albeit some number of days later than she should have) while others were trying to do the right thing too.

None of the opposition party members are showing their hand, refusing to say whether they will support the legislation. Fair enough, they want to know what the legislation would entail; will the workers be forced back to work and forced into a contract, or will they be forced back to work while submitting to binding arbitration, etc. The specifics of the arrangement could determine whether the legislation happens or not. Frankly, if this doesn’t work, everyone might as well get ready for a long, long run without transit in this city, because there won’t be any help coming.

For some reason, both sides of the dispute were united in their efforts to resist the declaration of OC Transpo an essential service, today. I can’t begin to understand why the city would reject something like that, but the effect is that OC Transpo has been deemed non-essential. So, there is no chance that the strike will be ended by that route. That leaves a settlement between the parties or government back to work legislation.

The parties aren’t going to settle this, which is why Ambrose’s move is a good one. The city can’t back down from its position on scheduling, and the union refuses to. Frankly, I was stunned when I heard that OC Transpo had been made exempt from federal safety regulations. I mean, a truck driver is forced by legislation to work only certain lengths of hours, with minimum amounts of rest prescribed, ensuring the safety of people on the road and the drivers themselves. If a guy driving a load of crappy goods to the local Walmarts has to follow these rules, why the hell shouldn’t a guy driving a load of crappy people?

I read in the paper a week or so ago that some drivers had worked for 36 hours with no more than 4 hours rest. In some cases, drivers had worked over 150 consecutive days without a day off. And I’ve heard from many people, some of which know bus drivers who work for the city, and there are an abundance of stories of junior drivers working the evening shift, catching a few winks in the back of the bus, and then working the morning rush hour.

None of this makes me feel safe on the road, let alone in the same vehicle with them.

The union is refusing to budge and doesn’t want the scheduling issue to go to arbitration. Gee, I wonder why. Maybe it’s because no sane individual would agree to leave the system in place the way it is. But anything less than that will not satisfy the greed of the pampered few that are at the root of this mess.

Corneillier, of course, was not impressed by Ambrose’s decision. From CBC News:

“ATU Local 279 president Andr√© Cornellier said he’d rather the government did not legislate his union back to work.

“But if the government decides on something else, what can I say?” he said.

Cornellier accused the city of being behind Ambrose’s proposal.

“The mayor and city council have friends in high places and they’re trying to get their friends to get them out of the box. Shame on them.””

Afer all, the union is fully willing to end the strike today and magically spirit the buses back onto the roads in two twiches of Corneiller’s nose if the city will just accept their generous offer, which just happens to remove scheduling from the table. The city offered binding arbitration on everything, including scheduling, but we don’t want to mess with that, now do we?

My hope is that Ambrose steps up tomorrow and follows through with her plan. My greater hope is that the opposition parties can get over themselves long enough to step beyond the partisan positioning and behind the motion to get the drivers back on the road. Let all the issues go to arbitration; likely, the city will have to pay more than they want to, but the drivers won’t get the scheduling system quite the way they want, either. It’s a compromise, which is what should have solved this issue a long time ago. Instead, the drivers have been bawling crocodile tears, claiming to feel terrible for a public that they chose to take hostage at the worst time of the year. A 60 year-old woman was having to walk 12 hours a day to get to and from her overnight minimum wage job because these bastards want ultimate control of their days. She didn’t have control of hers, did she?

There’s been enough greed and bull-headedness. Let’s hope that tomorrow isn’t a continuation of the theme.


Ottawa Citizen: “Opposition mute on legislation to end Ottawa bus strike”
CBC News: “Government could end Ottawa transit strike: Ambrose”
Ottawa Citizen: “The Survivor: She walks 12 hours a day to save job”

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