All’s well that ends…

Late today it was announced that the union representing the striking transit workers and the city of Ottawa had reached an agreement by which the strike would be ended immediately. Seems that the pressure of impending back to work legislation managed to do what public outcry, several meetings and massive media coverage could not. But what can be taken away from this strike and the way it was ended?

Both the city and the union must have known that the jig was up. Had they not beaten them to the punch, the federal government would have surely stepped in later in the evening and legislated the striking workers back to work. This likely would have also meant a decree that both sides would submit to binding arbitration on all outstanding subjects.

So, the city and the union agreed to end the strike and submit to binding arbitration on all outstanding subjects.

The less cynical among you might conclude, and probably quite rightly so, that the two sides came together knowing that this would be the outcome of legislation anyways, and figured it would look better if they made the decision.

I, on the other hand, am a cynical bastard who reportedly delights in the darker elements of… well… just about everything. So, when I look at this “agreement,” what I instead see is a city that doesn’t want another level of government playing in its sand box, and a union that has self-righteously claimed that the issue wasn’t about money giving up the key point of discontent for a chance at a greater sum of money.

To bring an end to the strike, the city had to give up its caveat that financial aspects of the agreement would have to fall within a set economic envelope. In exchance, the union put scheduling on the arbitration table. This is as good as the union saying they only care about the scheduling issue so long as you’re not waving an appropriately thick bundle of bills under their noses. This would go to confirm what I have been saying all along, which is that the issue is always money when a union decides to strike. But, again, the less cynical of you would just say that binding arbitration was coming anyways, and this way the city and the union made it look like it was their idea.

You might be right, but that doesn’t mean I’m not.

It’s fair to say that there will be a lot less warm and fuzziness for transit workers now, and probably for a long time. By completely disregarding the public, whom they serve, the transit workers have shown their selfishness for all to see. And we all have a much better understanding of how the transit system works, including the recklessness that stands in stead of absent safety regulations and the ludircousness of a staff who runs their own work schedule. Maybe some of those things will change through arbitration. I sincerely hope that they do, in a dramatic fashion. But none of us are likely to forget that the drivers were willing to ruin businesses, mess with people’s holiday plans, and subject an entire city to traffic and long, frigid walks because they were greedier than they were compassionate.

Well, at least we won’t forget for a couple weeks.

The truth is, as I have made mention of before, our attention spans are only so long. You can always count on people’s lack of desire to pay attenton or ask questions and their uncanny ability to forget things that for some time were cause for immense outpourings of anger and frustration.

Soon enough, all of the last 52 days of frustration and anger will be forgotten in a wash of familiar routine.

For now, at least, we can look forward to the workers getting back to what they are paid, and well paid, to do. We can look forward to buses belching exhaust into the morning air, and we can look forward to immense vehicles pulling out in front of traffic. In short, life will return to what it was before December.

At least until the next contract negotiations, in about two years.

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2 comments so far

Very interesting, and I think you underestimate how bitter some of us transit riders are, and will continue to be for quite some time. While I agree about everyone waving around their appendages and playing kings of the castle, it is fact that mayor Larry in fact went running to Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour, like a little girl begging her to do something. So, I think a more accurate analogy is two little boys fighting in the sandbox, and mommy coming outside and telling them to behave… or else.

On another note, public transportation would usually be the jurisdiction of the municipality or province, (TTC strike), but because OC Transpo crosses a provincial border it is a federal matter.

To make things even more challenging, STO recently announced that they would no longer recognize the ecopasses of workers because pass holders were getting a refund and therefore riding for free. So even if one wanted to be positive and say at least STO was trying to help people, you turn around and find out they are just as big a bunch of DBs as OC transpo. They could have come out of this looking like heroes, but instead are just jerks.

It is also clear that many, including myself have found alternative means of getting to work that are just as convenient as our so called public transit system, and I think many will in fact keep their new system, whether it be car pool, working from home, or driving to work in their brand new car. So much for greening the city and ensuring that traffic issues can be adequately addressed over the short term.

So, folks had better be ready for the first day back because there will be a lot of anger, hard feelings, and if one single bus driver gives anyone any grief, watch out… we could have some new national media stories to share… just in time for Winterlude.

Andrea Knight
January 31st, 2009 at 2:37 am

I have not underestimated the bitterness of some. In fact, it is that very bitterness that I share in common with them that allows me to have friends.

And, in fact, I knew that little nugget about the jurisdiction.

I’m not terribly surprised by the whole STO situation. I was more surprised that they were working so cooperatively with OC. Normally, you would think of this as an opportunity to make yourself look good, if you were them. But, then, you would be taking for granted that they give a damn what anyone thinks ouside of the borders of their nation.

I was actually rather heartened to hear on CBC radio this morning the easy forgiveness that I predicted in this post. People that were interviewed were already striking a “Let’s just get back to life and forgive and forget” pose.

Deep Cortex
January 31st, 2009 at 4:30 am

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