Saturday, January 14, 2012

YRT STRIKE: Important Memo to Drivers

TO: York Region Transit Drivers

FROM: A Pragmatic Customer

RE: Your Current Employment or lack thereof.

As you know York Region Transit and VIVA Rapid Transit Contracted Drivers continue to be on strike this week.  Riders have been without service on 60% of the York Region Transit System verging on three months.

The Union Locals representing the drivers (ATU 113 and ATU 1587) have had off and on talks with the their contracted companies Veolia, Miller Transit and First Group with the Union and the Contracted companies walking away from the table. 

The union leaders, Bob Kinnear (ATU 113) and Ray Doyle (ATU 1587) have been spending more time targeting the Region of York and it's Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch saying Bill Fisch is the cause of the strike (perfect example here).  Both Union leaders have targeted the Region of York to encourage negotiations forward and possible binding arbitration in a bid to end the strike.   Both Mr. Doyle and Mr. Kinnear have encouraged the Region of York to come to the table to negotiate.  The drivers themselves are encouraging the Region to negotiate which, under normal circumstances would make sense.  However, these are not normal public transit driver union negotiations because drivers are not, and never have been, employees of the Region of York. 

The Region of York contracts out the service of driving the buses to private companies (e.g. Miller Transit, Veolia, First Student, etc.) to provide service while retaining ownership of the bus fleet and the YRT and VIVA names.  Therefore, the Region of York is the private contractor's (i.e. Miller's) client or customer.  The drivers are merely employees of the respective contractor (i.e. employees of Miller) and not the Region of York. Thus, drivers or their representative unions negotiate with the private contractors over wages, benefits and scheduling and not with the Region of York as the Region is not involved in these negotiations. That is the way this relationship has worked for decades with the current York Region Transit and VIVA as well as the predecessor municipal transit agencies. 

There is only one other option, when the time comes for the Region of York to retender the transit contracts after the current contracts expire with the private contractors.  An example of this retendering occurred in 2010 when YRT's southwest division was tendered and awarded to Veolia.  A duly noted omission in the Region's decision to award was the failure of ATU to put forth a bid to provide driver services to for the Southwest division.  Thus, it appears ATU Union, and by extension, their membership did not wish in 2010 to remove the contractors and deal directly with the Region by putting forth a competitive offer on at least the Southwest Division. So drivers, what has changed since 2010 when it appears, you were so happy with your jobs that your Union failed to put forth a bid to provide services to YRT? 

Recently the Region of York has started to replace the usual 40 foot buses with 60 foot VIVA buses along YRT Route 99.  It has been reported by the media that striking drivers have been blocking these VIVA buses longer than 3 minutes which goes against the court injunction.  It has also been noted that striking drivers believe the VIVA buses are being driven non-unionized drivers and thus the court injunction's 3 minute limit does not apply.  Thus a  VIVA bus attempting to leave Finch Station was blocked by ATU Memberslonger than the court imposed 3 minutes.  Drivers should  reread the court injunction and notice nowhere is it mentioned whether the drivers of the YRT vehicles had to be unionzied in any way.  Thus, the reporting by the media would suggest that these particular striking YRT workers would be in comtempt of the court injunction and probably would be charged if a law enforcement official had been present.

To make all of the above simpler, ATU Unionized drivers are employees of their respective contractors and not employees of the Region of York.  Bill Fisch, the Chairman and CEO, of the Region of York is one of the main decision makers in whether the customer -- The Region of York-- wants to renew the contracts with the contractors who just happen to be your employers.  Thus, the picketing, disruptions and other denigrative activities towards the Region is basically calling the customer dumb for contracting your employer and your services in the first place.


  1. Ah, but the union doesn't want the Region renewing any agreements with the contractors, Michael. What it wants is to get rid of the contractors altogether so it can deal with—and wield power over—the politicians directly.

    That said, I've also been wondering why the union hasn't bid on any of the tenders itself. It must have the resources, and surely its experience in the Region would give it an advantage. Perhaps it simply doesn't want to be seen as validating the public-private model.

  2. The issue is quite simple, if the Unions want to get rid of the private contractors, they could easily put a competitive bid in the next time the contract came up for tender. That is how Veolia picked up the Southwest Division of YRT in 2010 from the previous contractor.

    If the union(s) was also putting bids in, then perhaps more than 4 bids would come in and the whole process would be even more competitive.


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