‘Frustrated’ transit drivers, other workers picket Mississauga city hall for new deal

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Published June 26, 2024 at 1:39 pm

MiWay strike in Mississauga.

Frustrated Mississauga transit bus drivers and maintenance workers gathered at city hall Wednesday morning in an effort to turn up the heat on MiWay officials to get a new collective bargaining agreement done.

Dozens of workers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1572 held an informational picket outside Mississauga’s Civic Centre and then moved inside council chambers where new Mayor Carolyn Parrish was chairing her first meeting of city council.

The workers, unhappy with the slow pace of negotiations with Mississauga’s transit provider, MiWay, sat in the audience and caused no disruption as city business was conducted by council.

Earlier this month, transit operators and other workers voted overwhelmingly, by an 88 per cent count, to reject the latest contract offer from the city as the two sides continue to try hammer out a new deal.

In a news release issued Wednesday, the union said transit workers in Mississauga are “frustrated” and that they’re ready to go on strike — likely sometime in July or August — if that’s what it takes to get a fair agreement in place. Last year, members voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike should it be deemed necessary.

“Despite extensive negotiations between ATU and MiWay, the (earlier) rejection of the proposed contract by members sends a clear message that they refuse to settle for anything less than what they deserve,” the union said.

The two camps began negotiating a new deal last Sept. 20, the union noted, and after 35 full days devoted to bargaining, they’re still “far apart” on an agreement that would satisfy both groups.

“Our members are at their breaking point,” said Local 1572 president Jack Jackson in the news release. “MiWay and the city have still failed to address these wage and safety issues and poor treatment of our members. That’s why we will be picketing outside city hall. The riding public needs to know because they deserve a safe, reliable and affordable transit system.”

The union said earlier that the 88 per cent vote to reject the latest offer “underscores the commitment of union members to uphold their rights and secure a fair contract.”

Workers are seeking fair wages, improved benefits and better working conditions that address health and safety concerns, the union has said. They’ve also asked for a conciliator to be appointed in an effort to strike a deal.

In showing support for Mississauga members, ATU international president John Costa said MiWay workers “provide a critical lifeline to riders across Mississauga to get to work, the grocery store, the doctor and other important appointments.”

Last month, Mississauga city council approved a plan to hire 44 new MiWay drivers and 11 bus mechanics as the city’s transit provider bumps up service on some of the busiest routes.

In total, MiWay officials said earlier, service on some high-use transit routes will be boosted by about 57,000 service hours and some 2,400 hours of additional maintenance and repair service to get buses back on the street faster.

With MiWay ridership back to and exceeding pre-pandemic numbers as of late 2023, transit officials said the latest service upgrades are needed in order to meet the growing demand.

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