by Emily Leedham
Winnipeg Transit drivers, who are members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, will not be enforcing fares from riders tomorrow, Thursday, June 27. This will be the second time ATU 1505 has taken this form of job action, the first “fare strike” taking place last month on Tuesday, May 14th.
After the first fare strike, ATU 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary told RankandFile.ca, “I think overall it went very well, I’m very happy with it, the results are great, our membership loved it.”
The union says this action is intended to build solidarity with transit riders, recognizing that drivers’ working conditions impact their passengers too. The fare strike, which resulting in a 30% drop in fare payment, cost the City between $40,000 and $45,000 without disrupting commutes.
The union has been without contract since January. The union attained a strike mandate on May 31 with an 84% member turnout voting 98% in favor of job action.
In a statement provided by ATU 1505, workers’ key concerns include the high turnover rate for drivers and mechanics, indicating an unhealthy workplace and overall lack of respect from management. The union says there is no exit interview in place, indicating that Winnipeg Transit is not interested in understanding why employees are leaving so frequently.
The City also wants to add a second tier of 200 part-time drivers at $16 an hour – significantly below the current drivers’ pay rate – and without access to benefits. The union is concerned that, with the already high turnover rate, these underpaid part-time positions will further impact Transit’s ability to retain experienced and dedicated transit operators.
Scheduling is also a major issue, particularly the practice of trading vacation time, which would interfere with many workers’ ability to visit their families abroad.
The union would also like to see a scheduling committee created with community input, to help create better schedules that work for both drivers and riders.
This struggle has broader implications in addressing climate change as well. Reducing Canada’s carbon emissions will require massive investments in public transit, and a shift away from car-culture. As austerity is handed down to public transit across Canada, militant transit unions are key in the fight for a just transition away from fossil fuels.
Members of ATU 1505 and community volunteers will pass out leaflets at Winnipeg bus stops today to inform riders of tomorrow’s fare strike.