Winnipeg Transit?s chronic turnover issue is about more than just wages

Hybrid busNow that it seems the city and the transit union have come to an agreement on wages, it?s time for them to address the much bigger issue of improving working conditions.

Because if either side thinks a few extra dollars is going to solve the problem of chronic turnover among transit operators, they?ve missed the bus.

More than half of new drivers quit within their first year on the job. That?s shockingly high. Dealing with a revolving turnstile of employees ? there are 75 open driver positions according to a recent job posting ? must consume serious human and financial resources from the transit department.

New drivers are driven out by split shifts, which require them to be in uniform 12 hours per day, even though they?re only being paid for eight. They?re up at the crack of dawn to cover the morning rush, then have a few hours off until they?re back in the saddle for the afternoon rush.

?It?s a necessity given the nature of traffic flow in the city, but it?s still a difficult life, especially if you have a family. You can?t help get kids ready in the morning, and you miss dinner most nights as well.

They?re driven out by the threat of violence, too. In the first 10 months of 2013, 36 transit operators were assaulted while on the job in Winnipeg. While the city has taken steps to improve driver safety in recent years ? like installing cameras and having police cadets ride the transit system ? it?s still an ongoing concern.

They?re driven out by the stress and strain of battling traffic to maintain a precise schedule, all while remaining stuck in a chair for hours.

And they?re driven out by jerks like you and me who tend to blame the driver for anything that goes wrong during our morning commute. If the bus is late, we blame the driver. If the bus is early, we blame the driver. If the bus is too full or too cold or too hot or too old, we blame the driver. If we don?t have a valid monthly pass or enough money for bus fare, we somehow blame the driver.

Given all that, is it any wonder research shows transit operators suffer from high rates of cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal issues, back pain, depression, anxiety and substance abuse?

A boost in wages might encourage some new employees to tough it out a bit longer, but the long-term solution is going to be more complicated.

Investing in employee health and wellness programs, expanding the fleet to keep up with increasing passenger volumes, enhancing safety standards and even relaxing seniority rules around vacation and shift selection could all help ensure more drivers stay on board during their early years.


Telus Ride for Dad pledge request

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Hello Everyone, I am participating in the 2015 Ride for Dad this Saturday May 30th.

Think of the men you know. Can you think of seven who have made an impact on your life? That list might include your father, brother, uncle or close friends.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now think again about the importance of those seven men in your life. What would you do if one of them couldn?t be there for you?

Perhaps you have a friend or relative who has been afflicted with prostate cancer, I have a good friend, a retired bus operator who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and is a survivor, early detection is key to survival.

Constant research has helped to not only increase the survivability, but has reduced the previously devastating effects to quality of life, new improved surgical techniques have reduced the debilitating loss of sexual function that used to result from prostate cancer surgery, new breakthroughs occur, but not without your help.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian men. It generally affects men over 40. Successful treatment depends on early detection. In the longer term, research into improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention will further improve our capacity to deal with this disease.

I am asking you to make a difference for the men in your life by help by supporting my fundraising efforts with a donation. ?Your tax-deductible gift will make a difference in the lives of many by helping to fund critical research and public awareness campaigns right in our own community!

Help me reach my goal ? please support me with a donation today, I have a $200 goal to reach and would appreciate anything any of you can afford to donate, small or large all donations are gratefully accepted at the following page: Donations accepted here!

Thank you for your consideration in this worthy cause, perhaps next year we can ride as a team effort.

Bob Sawatsky

Owner/Creator/Administrator of?

City, bus union reach tentative agreement (YWG)

IMG_0843Buses will be back on schedule soon, after the Amalgamated Transit Union and city reached a tentative contract agreement.

The deal was reached at midnight Friday.

“We’re very pleased to announced that we have a tentative agreement that we came to last night with the ATU,” Winnipeg Transit Director Dave Wardrop said Saturday. “We’re optimistic that we’re making good progress and working toward restoring regular service as soon as possible.”

The ATU instituted a ban on voluntary overtime a month ago when negotiations on a new contract stalled. Now that ban is lifted, and Wardrop is hopeful more buses will be on the road soon.

“Last night when we finished up ? close to midnight ? and shortly thereafter ATU issued a message to staff that they had lifted their ban,” Wardrop said. “So we expect that we’ll start seeing folks getting back to what we really all want to do. We know that’s what our employees want, we know that’s what the union wants, I know that’s what we want ? is we want to get back to the business of running the best transit service in Canada.”

Wardrop estimated that 20-25 buses were missed during rush hours, with very little disruption elsewhere on the schedule. That works out to 30-45 service hours a day, he said, among 5,400 daily service hours in total.

“So it was really a very small fraction of the overall service that was disrupted,” Wardrop said.

ATU spokesperson Everett Rudolph doubts it was that little, saying, “the system is reliant on overtime,” in an email Saturday night. “Some employees in the maintenance department were working upwards of 150 hours in a two week period,” he noted.

But the biggest disruption was among mechanics, and several buses are waiting to be repaired before they can head back to their routes.

Wardrop wasn’t sure how long it will be before those buses are back, or when mechanics will resume overtime.

“We’ll knock off the quick wins and get them back into service as soon as possible,” Wardrop said.

ATU had suggested a cap on OT for mechanics and bus drivers, but Wardrop said those requests were withdrawn at the end of negotiations.

“All large transit systems, and effective transit systems, and in fact most effective operations, use overtime to smooth demands and deal with peaks as required,” Wardrop said. “ATU and our staff have committed to a resumption of the overtime, and so that’s all good news.”

On Wednesday, the city announced that it had offered a four-year agreement that features an 8% wage increase for drivers and an 8.8% for mechanics. The union was proposing a three-year deal with a 10.3% raise for drivers and 20.2% hike for mechanics. Details of the final wage increases aren’t being released until both ATU ratifies the agreement and Winnipeg Transit confirms it and sends the deal for city council approval.

“We’re excited, and I think ATU are happy with the outcome. We’ve all worked very hard to come out with a good deal for everybody, we’ve all worked very hard to listen to everybody ? and I’d like to thank the good work and the hard work of negotiating committees on both sides,” Wardrop said.

“I’d also like to thank the public for their patience during this time, and we look forward to getting back to regular service.”

Safety was a big concern for bus drivers. Wardrop said Transit will be launching a campaign to raise the public’s awareness of how to treat bus drivers.

“We’ve committed to participate in a public information campaign to let people know what the proper etiquette and behavior, respectful behaviour, is for our employees and the public as well.”

Let city, bus drivers work it out

IMG_6298The last thing we need is for Winnipeg Transit to be deemed an essential service. Believe me, nobody wants that.

It may be a tempting option as the threat of a Transit strike nears. But legislating city bus service as an essential service wouldn’t be good for bus drivers or taxpayers.

An essential service scheme of any kind ? either an outright strike ban or an essential service designation that retains the right to strike ? almost always means one thing for taxpayers: They pay more.

That’s because when governments take away the right to strike from a group of workers, it usually means contract disputes are settled by a third party through binding arbitration. And since binding arbitration rarely favours the employer, contracts settled this way tend to cost taxpayers a lot of money. Worse, it leaves elected officials with no control over government expenditures. Just ask Winnipeg city councillors how they feel every time the police service contract goes to arbitration.

No-strike laws are necessary, though, where work stoppages put public safety and health at risk. You can’t have police or firefighters on strike for example, for obvious reasons. The withdrawal of their services would put people’s lives and safety in jeopardy. But that means there has to be an alternative dispute mechanism to settle contract disputes. And invariably that means binding arbitration. It’s usually costly for taxpayers and it handcuffs politicians’ ability to make financial decisions on behalf of their constituents. But it’s an unavoidable reality.

However, it should only be used in the most extreme cases. And in the grand scheme of things, city bus service just doesn’t qualify as an extreme case.

As much as a Transit strike would cause severe disruption in the community, it wouldn’t put people’s lives or safety in jeopardy. It would be a major inconvenience, but people wouldn’t die.

The reality is, we already have far too many jobs classified as essential services in Manitoba. And as taxpayers, we pay through the nose to finance binding arbitration contracts for cops, firefighters, teachers and even judges (although they have their own set of rules, but the outcome is the same).

We don’t need another layer of taxpayer-funded workers in that category.

Besides, unionized workers have a right to strike. It’s part of a delicate balance that gives both employers and employees respective powers in collective bargaining. Employers can lay off staff and lock them out during labour disputes. And unionized workers can withdraw their services collectively as a negotiating tool when contracts expire.

Nobody likes strikes. Employers hate them because work stoppages disrupt their operations. And workers don’t like them because they don’t get paid while they’re on the picket line. As a result, both sides are motivated to settle, usually before a strike even occurs.

Essential service legislation and no-strike laws scuttle that balance. And in the public sector, taxpayers are usually left paying the freight for more expensive labour costs when those provisions are implemented.

Besides, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled earlier this year that the right to strike is constitutionally protected, a ground-breaking decision that will have far-reaching implications for governments that limit the rights of public-sector unions to strike.

The truth is, the threat of a Winnipeg Transit strike might be the very hammer that will persuade both sides to reach a settlement. Transit workers don’t want to strike any more than city officials want to see a work stoppage in bus service. But if that’s the only way to arrive at a fair settlement, so be it.

The alternative, either a no-strike provision or an essential services scheme where “vital” minimal services are maintained, would be much worse. The no-strike option with binding arbitration would cost taxpayers a fortune in the long run. And and essential service scheme, especially one without a dispute resolution mechanism like binding arbitration, would be deemed unconstitutional, according to the recent top court ruling.

Hopefully both sides can meet in the middle and reach a settlement without any further labour disruption. But if they can’t, that’s the cost of doing business in the world of labour relations.

i ‘People are going to suffer’ from Winnipeg Transit cancellations

Woman wants transit declared essential service, employees stripped of right to take action

It’s been a frustrating morning for some people who rely on Winnipeg Transit.16 island lakes

The ongoing labour dispute has created service disruptions across the city, leaving some buses running late, some not showing up at all, and forcing many?people to scramble?for alternate travel plans.

“Oh yeah, it was horrible.?The bus driver was, like, to the point he couldn’t even let anybody else on, it was so packed,” said?Kim Lilley, whose bus didn’t show up, prompting her to catch another one?then transfer?to yet?another.

Harbreed Dhalla said she’s worried about how she’s going to manage her personal schedule with the transit delays and cancellations. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Bus drivers and maintenance workers are?refusing to work overtime shifts as part of the labour dispute between the city and the?Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505.

There are more than 110 buses?parked in the transit yards, waiting for repairs, which means they are not able to be on the road taking passengers.

A total of?31 routes will be affected throughout Tuesday. They are:

  • Morning rush hour

Routes:?18, 22, 25, 30, 31, 34, 40, 41, 44, 46, 57, 58, 59, 68, 162, 163, 181, 183

  • Afternoon rush hour

Routes:?11, 16, 18, 25, 29, 38, 41, 48, 54, 58, 162, 163, 183

“I commute by the bus every day and I have to get to work, I have to get home. It would be a bit of a walk if I have to get home from work or going to work by walking,” she said.

Her route 16 bus is expected to be affected during the afternoon rush hour.

“And I’m supposed to stay late at work, so I have to figure out and make sure I keep up on the time. If not, I have to take the 55 to go downtown [and] that will be a bit of a re-route.”

Harbreed Dhalla said she’s worried about how she’s going to manage her personal schedule with the transit delays and cancellations. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Harbreed Dhalla, who was also at the Confusion Corner junction, sees the situation as much more dire.

“It’s a concerning issue because wherever I have to travel I travel by bus.?I’m really surprised if they’re going to go on strike because the whole city is going to collapse,” she said.?”Yesterday I was talking to a group of people and they were all concerned if Transit is going to do this ??then we are really going to be in trouble, people are going to suffer.

“I think transit people shouldn’t do this.?They should find some other way to sort out their problem instead of going for a strike or something like that.

“I’m really worried how I’m going to travel back home in the afternoon or tomorrow. I have appointments, I have an interview, so I’m going to have to rush from one work to another work and I don’t know how I’m going to manage.”

Transit disruptions

?Amalgamated Transit?Union president?John?Callahan?said?what?Winnipeg Transit pays its?operators and mechanics pales in comparison to what workers in other big Canadian cities are making.

“Right now we feel we are four to five dollars an hour below the national standard for mechanics,” Callahan?told CBC News last week.

The Transit fleet is comprised of about?580 buses and?Callahan?expects?about?one-fifth of those to be rendered out of service by Tuesday, and in need of repairs that they aren’t likely to receive during?the dispute.

Mayor Brian Bowman said he can’t?get into details with ongoing labour negotiations but believes the conciliator?and both parties will be meeting today and he’s hoping for agreement soon.

“We want to see everybody back to normal operations,” he said.

“They do great work and they’re valued members of our public service, so we obviously want to get back to normal operations for everybody’s benefit, most notably transit riders.”

Make transit essential service, mom says

Some parents in the city’s?Whyte?Ridge neighbourhood?say?the situation?is?making it?difficult?for their kids to get to school.

Cheryl?Santilli?said she was notified on Friday that?transit?bus No.?181, the one her daughter takes to Vincent Massey Collegiate, could be cancelled Tuesday.

Santilli?said she’ll have to drive her daughter to school?and make?arrangements?with her employer to come in late to work.

Because there is no high school in the Whyte Ridge area, Santilli’s?daughter?relies?on transit as her?only means of getting to class.

“Who is going to pay for our gas and probably?our parking, because we have to take cars now?to work because we can’t take a bus out of here,” she said.

“It affects people who live here, too, not just students, so it’s quite a nightmare situation in this area.”

Santilli, who?believes a few hundred students in the neighbourhood could be affected, wants transit to be declared an essential service so that transit?drivers can’t take labour action that leads to service disruptions..

“It’s very frustrating, [I’m] very angry, very angry,” she said.

“We are now also sitting with half-used bus passes that are useless to us.”

Courtesy of CBC news


Thousands call for President’s resignation in Guatemala protests

11201109_10152828887252644_619639811805446014_oA historic moment in the life of Guatemala mass protests have been held, with demonstrators calling for the president to step down. Last month prosecutors uncovered a customs bribery ring, leading to the resignation of the country’s vice president.

1398607_10152828886582644_1445625159874622881_oThousands of Guatemalans took to the streets on Saturday, demanding the nation’s President Otto Perez Molina leave office in the wake of a scandal that claimed his former Vice President Roxana Baldetti.

Despite the rain, demonstrators in 13 cities across the Central American ?and also several countries around the world. ?The protesters banged drums and blew whistles in the peaceful protests.

Those in the capital made their way to the main square, unfurling a banner reading “we are the people.”

The action was organized via social media, without any discernible leadership.

Several sectors of industry threw their support behind the movement, including 11054839_389294601258966_870537867652198257_nbusiness leaders, student groups, farmers and human rights organizations.

In April, the UN International Commission Against Impunity announced the results of an investigation into a customs bribery ring uncovered by Guatemalan prosecutors.

Some of the country’s top tax officials, as well as an aide to Baldetti who was alleged to be the ringleader, were named in the inquiry, leading to Baldetti stepping down from her post on May 8.

Baldetti maintains she did not play a part in the scam, and as yet no charges have been laid, while her aide has gone on the run.

Canad--protestAt least 50 people are suspected of being somehow involved in the ring.

Perez Molina has denied any involvement in the scandal, and called for a crackdown on corruption.

One student told news agency AFP the people had run out of patience with their politicians.

11203583_10152828887167644_1048319253530522776_o“We can’t take it anymore. We have to do something to stop all this corruption by our thieving political class,” she said.

Other protesters have vowed to continue demonstrating until the president resigns, and those who were guilty brought to justice.

The scandal has brought to light 1.2 Billion US dollars missing from high level offices that involves The President, Vice president and another 50 people in this fiasco.Toronto Guate protests

City needs ‘safer, saner approach’ to transit: bus drivers

IMG_6298The union representing city bus drivers has demanded that the city expand its bus service and make it safer for bus riders.

?Our message to the city is simple: fix it, fund it, and make it fair,? John Callahan, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 1505, said in a release issued Thursday. ?Winnipeggers deserve a safer and more reliable transit service. But when the city compensates transit workers below the national average, refuses to hire enough drivers to deliver the service our communities need, and works those that they do employ 13 hours per day, they are jeopardizing their obligation to provide that safe and reliable service to the citizens of Winnipeg.?

The union, which represents more than 1,100 drivers and about 250 maintenance workers, is currently involved in contract talks with the city and Winnipeg Transit.

A first-year bus driver is paid $18.42 per hour while working a three-part shift just to earn a standard eight hours? pay, Callahan said.

?That means a bus operator … can spend up to 15 hours per day in uniform and only be paid for half of that,? Callahan said. ?It?s not right for the workers, and is it safe for our riders??

Callahan claimed the union has been attempting diligently to reach a contract settlement since the last one expired on Jan. 17, 2015.

?We came to the table not (wanting) a hand out, but rather a helping hand,? Callahan said. ?We have examples of funding models as well as cost-efficient fleet expansion ideas. But, it would seem the city isn?t interested in working together on any of it.?

The union recently called upon its members to refuse voluntary overtime to push negotiations.

Winnipeg Transit has been named a ?benchmark? (OMBI) transit system for its cost-efficient service, 26% below the national average, which the union wants to maintain, Callahan said.

?ATU members are proud of the efficiency and effectiveness of their work, but we?re afraid that the city?s intransigence could drag the whole system backward,? Callahan said. ?It is the goal of the ATU to deliver a safer, more reliable service, and we expect the city to get back to the table and talk with us in a meaningful way about making our system stronger.?

At the request of the city, the union has agreed to enter into conciliation.

?We are in the process of conciliation,? city spokesperson Alissa Clark said in an emailed response. ?We remain optimistic that a settlement can be reached.?

Transit bus operators