by Blake McCall
Hamilton bus driver and member of ATU Local 107
On Thursday December 12 the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada staged an info picket at the Voyago Headquarters in London, Ontario. ATU locals from across southern Ontario participated, as well as members of OPSEU and the London and District Labour Council.
The action was called in support of an ATU Canada organizing drive on the property where workers are facing management intimidation and harassment. This came to head on the previous Monday when a worker was suspended from her position for actively participating in the drive.
Taking on multinational Transdev
Voyago provides non-emergency patient transfer, handi-transport services, and school bus services. It operates throughout Ontario and Quebec and in April was purchased by the Multinational corporation Transdev.
Transdev is a worldwide transportation group that is looking to make large inroads into the Canadian market. It has already established partnerships to help run the Edmonton LRT, Huronontario LRT in Mississauga, as well as bus services in the York Region.
Transdev rakes in nearly $10 billion in profits every year, and is notorious for its poor working conditions and low pay. At Voyago, the highest wage is around $18/hour. The industry average is closer to $24/hour. This impacts quality of life for the workers and certainly impacts the quality of service for the passengers.
ATU International has a history of fighting Transdev for better working conditions. The most recent example is the strike against their privatized operation of the Cinder Bed Road Garage in Fairfax, Virginia. Transdev operates 5 percent of the public bus lines in the region but workers were paid $12/hour less to work on the same roads as other bus drivers. This past fall transit workers went out on strike until a deal was reached in early December.
Voyago working conditions
With Voyago now part of their operations, Transdev are looking to secure new markets in provinces and municipalities pursuing transit privatization schemes, according to ATU Canada President John DiNino.
“As cities and provinces across Canada introduce P3 “partnerships” in the public transit industry we can expect to see Transdev aggressively seek market share, fight to push down wages benefits and working conditions down while providing inferior service to passengers.”
The crowd was met with many appreciative honks from passing cars as workers came and left on shift change, building confidence of the workers to push ahead with unionization and improve conditions. The struggle at Voyago is the latest effort of ATU Canada bring contracted out transit services into the union.
“What we are doing here today in London is showing these workers at Voyago that when management intimidates or threatens you, that they are doing it to the whole union and we will have your back,” said DeNino at the London, Ontario info picket.
Unionizing the workforce is an essential part of combating the decline in services and working conditions resulting from privatization. An organized workforce also has the power to lead the battle to rollback privatization of public transit and other services.