Foreign-controlled Veolia Transportation trying to force transit strike in York Region charges union

TORONTO, Feb. 10 /CNW/ - French-owned Veolia Transportation is aggressively attempting to force Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 into a strike against the York Region local bus services in Vaughan, says local union president Bob Kinnear.

Local 113 also represents about 150 York Region VIVA bus operators who are also employed by Veolia, as well as nearly 10,000 Toronto Transit Commission workers.

A strike deadline has been set for start-of-service this coming Monday morning, February 14, 2011. The union remains open to negotiating an agreement in order to avert a strike.

The newly-organized group of about 200 operators and maintenance workers were transferred to Veolia when their prior employer, Can-Ar Coach Services, lost the York Region contract to provide local bus service in Vaughan.

"It is very clear that Veolia, which is highly subsidized by York Region taxpayers, wants a mid-winter strike that will greatly inconvenience local residents who rely on bus transportation," says Kinnear.

"This is consistent with Veolia's anti-union behaviour around the world. They come into a country and suck up as much in tax subsidies as they can get away with. And the less they pay the local work force, the more profit they can send back to France. Currently, York Region has the highest transit fares in the GTA at $3.25. On top of that fare, York Region subsidizes every ride by about an additional four dollars. Where is all that tax money going? Certainly not to the workers.

"These Veolia workers are the lowest-paid in the GTA, by far. Their wages are as much as 30 per cent less than those paid to transit workers in neighbouring Brampton, Mississauga and Durham. They are also lower than Veolia employees who drive the Viva express buses. They work longer shifts than any other group of transit workers, some over 14 hours a day."

A major issue in dispute is sick days. These workers have no compensable sick days whereas their fellow workers at Viva have four paid sick days per year.

"It is a public safety issue when low-wage bus operators are penalized for being sick so they are forced to drag themselves into work when they might have the flu or some other transmissible illness that interferes with their ability to safely perform their work.

"Our members are very reasonable and want to keep working. But it is very unreasonable to expect them to work for less than their fellow workers at the same company doing essentially the same work."

Veolia Transportation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Paris, France-based Veolia Environnement, which reports annual earnings in excess of $50 billion CDN.

SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113

For further information:

Laura Ziemba, 416-712-0412

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Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113

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