Toronto transit workers ordered back to work

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Toronto subway train at St Andrew station

Canada's largest public transit system is expected to resume service Sunday evening after the Ontario provincial government ordered striking Toronto transit workers back to work today. Service was shut down when transit workers suddenly walked off the job on Friday, having just voted to reject a labour contract deal made the previous weekend.

The provincial legislature met in an extraordinary Sunday afternoon session to pass Bill 66, the Toronto Public Transit Service Resumption Act, 2008 which not only orders the transit work to resume, but includes follow-up arbitration to resolve outstanding disagreements between transit management and its unions. The largest union affected is Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, but the legislation also affects workers unionised under International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 235, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2.

Union members who defy this law could be fined C$2000 per day, while the union itself would risk a daily fine of C$25,000. However, ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear indicated that his union would respect the law and return to work while supporting the choice of Kevin Burkett as arbitrator. Wages were not an issue for union members, who voted against the earlier draft contract out of fears regarding compensation for on-the-job injuries, and for maintenance workers' job security.

Toronto's subways, streetcars and buses will operate on a limited service for Sunday evening, with full service expected as the work week begins Monday morning.