York Region VIVA bus transit workers unanimously reject company proposal as Monday strike deadline approaches

TORONTO, Oct. 21, 2011 /CNW/ - Transit workers who operate and maintain the VIVA bus service in York Region have voted unanimously to reject an offer of settlement by the privately-owned company, one of three under contract to York Region Transit. If no settlement is reached by Sunday night, the strike will begin at 4:00 a.m. on Monday, October 24.

The 220 workers are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which also represents TTC workers. The main stumbling blocks are wages and benefits.

"It is very unusual to have a proposed settlement turned down by 100 per cent of the members, and that is a strong indication of the unhappiness of these poorly-compensated workers," said ATU 113 president Bob Kinnear.

"We are so far behind the wage levels of surrounding communities such as Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, you'd think we were in a different country," Kinnear added. "The turnover in staff is extremely high for the industry, which is no good for York Region transit users who benefit from experienced people operating and maintaining their buses. The company apparently has no intention of trying to close the huge wage gap by even a little."

Another issue standing in the way of an agreement with VIVA is the demand by the company that maintenance workers pay more for their relatively meagre benefits package.

"The concessions on benefits payments demanded by VIVA of our maintenance members is completely out of whack with industry standards," said Bob Kinnear. "It's puzzling that there is such a huge demand these days that transit workers show up for work in the peak of health, not impaired in any way, while this company makes it harder for them to get the health care they need. It's a contradiction that must be resolved."

Kinnear said he is willing to continue negotiating over the weekend to reach an agreement but did not hold out much hope that a settlement can be found.

For further information:

Bill Reno, 416-223-7366