Defiant York Region transit workers to vote today on Veolia's final offer to end 13-week strike; union president Bob Kinnear to speak to media following results.

TORONTO, Jan. 17, 2012 /CNW/ - The 220 members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 who operate and maintain Veolia's Viva buses in York Region will vote today on the French-owned multinational's "final offer" in an Ontario labour board-supervised vote requested by the company. The main issue in the dispute, which began on October 24, is Veolia's refusal to cover the full cost of its workers' health care benefits.

Union president Bob Kinnear will hold a press conference at the Monte Carlo immediately following announcement of the vote count.

The vote will take place between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at the Monte Carlo Inn in Vaughan, located near Highway 400 and Highway 7 at 705 Applewood Crescent. Vote results are expected before 2:30 p.m.

In early November, the unions offered to end the strike immediately if the contractors agreed to a neutral arbitration process. They refused and were backed up in their refusal by York Regional Chairman Bill Fisch, who continues to reject arbitration as a way of ending the strike.

"The unelected Chairman Fisch, who is paid $200,000 a year by York Region taxpayers - plus full health care benefits and a car, by the way - is responsible for at least 12 weeks of this strike," says Bob Kinnear.

"He refuses to explain why he is opposed to ending the strike through a neutral arbitration process, even though that is how many police and firefighter contracts are settled. He continues to maintain that the union is seeking wage parity with transit workers in surrounding communities when he has been told to his face that this is not true. He blames the union for not wanting to negotiate when, in fact, it is Veolia that walked away from the bargaining table in December and has refused to come back."

In a similar board-supervised vote on January 6, striking workers at Miller Transit, another York Region Transit private contractor, voted to reject the company's final offer by 84 per cent. The 250 Miller workers are members of ATU Local 1587.

A November poll of more than 2,000 York Region residents showed 71% in favour of settling the strike through arbitration.

SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113

For further information:

Bill Reno, 416-223-7366

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Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113

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