Friday, April 18, 2008

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

No matter how much we try to rationalize our behaviour, we are very much creatures of impulse and emotion. Symbolic gestures can often touch our hearts in a way that defies all logic. Someone's kind actions now will affect you deeply.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

The imminent full moon has placed a touchy emotive issue on the agenda. And it's making you feel rather unsettled. Allow this dynamic period to run its course. It will prove to be a positive cathartic process once a certain issue has been faced.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Trust your inner impulses and instincts now. If you listen carefully, they will point you in a very profitable direction. You are on the verge of breaching the ramparts of an old enemy within. It is now possible to achieve what your heart desires.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

You feel as if you have a pressing responsibility to make a wise, clever choice. The smartest option of all is the one that involves going along with whatever seems to be happening naturally. The path of least resistance, now, is also the road to happiness.

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City braces for TTC strike
Commuters crowd the Yonge and Bloor St. subway station on April 17, 2008. Subways, streetcars and buses will be idled at 4 a.m. Monday unless the TTC reaches a settlement by Sunday at 4 p.m.
TTC riders worry about walkout

Zac Black will be walking to school.

Zompa Tenzin said her boss at McDonald's has promised to pay her cab fare.

Salme Samuels says she'll most likely take a vacation day if the TTC does go on strike Monday.

Those were three reactions from a rush hour crowd at Union Station abuzz about a possible strike yesterday.

"This is going to really (expletive) me over," Black, 27, said. He commutes daily from Oakville to attend a cosmetology school at Yonge and Bloor Sts. "I'm going to have to walk. I think hailing a cab will be next to impossible."

Tenzin is 16. She lives and goes to school up at York Mills, but comes downtown five days a week to the McDonald's job. "The manager said they might get a taxi for me," Tenzin said.

But for Samuels, the only backup plan is missing work.

The 59-year-old works downtown at the Canada Revenue Agency. She takes a bus from her home in the Steeles and Kipling Aves. area.

The trip takes about 75 minutes each way, and if there's no TTC, Samuels doesn't know how else to get to work.

"I don't know anyone who lives up by me to carpool with. I'm just going to play it by ear," she said. "I'll probably have to take a vacation day."

Brent Chisholm, 35, a Bay Street equities trader, said he'll be forced to drive from his home near Danforth and Greenwood Aves. "I live five minutes from the subway, so I never drive to work. But I guess I'll have to."

- Robyn Doolittle

Commuters and employers consider their options as the union begins countdown to possible walkout
April 18, 2008

Staff Reporters

Toronto commuters and businesses are bracing for a possible transit strike that could see the city grind to a halt just in time for the Monday morning rush.

Subways, streetcars and buses will stand idle as of 4 a.m. Monday unless the TTC reaches a contract settlement with its largest union by Sunday at 4 p.m. – the firm deadline announced by the union yesterday.

Even though both sides stressed they are still optimistic an agreement can be reached, officials and businesses throughout the city were making contingency plans for a possible Monday transit strike.

At the Royal York Hotel, where two-thirds of employees rely on discounted Metropasses to get to work, organizers said a strike would put a different spin on a leave-your-car-at-home Earth Day event planned for Tuesday.

And police were already warning drivers to be prepared for full-out gridlock and watch out for hordes of pedestrians and cyclists.

Transit union president Bob Kinnear said he was disappointed to have to threaten such drastic action, though his union has been in a legal strike position since April 1.

"But we have a choice: We can take this action or continue to be second-class in this city as far as wage and benefit packages in comparison to other city employees," said Kinnear, who heads Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

The union says it is looking for the same wages and benefits other city workers get and complains that Toronto transit wages lag behind those in Mississauga.

Even the issue of compensation for workers hurt on the job has not been resolved, as had been suggested earlier, according to Kinnear.

Kinnear called on Mayor David Miller and TTC chair Adam Giambrone to step in and ensure the 8,900 unionized transit workers – operators and maintenance employees – get a fair settlement.

"The fact of the matter is, the bus stops there, with the mayor. He's responsible to the constituents of Toronto. We're optimistic that he'll do the right thing and bring fairness and equality to the table and ensure there will be no disruption to service on Monday," Kinnear said, adding that, whatever he says publicly, Miller is involved in the negotiations.

But speaking to reporters from China, Miller said it's up to the elected TTC commissioners to handle the talks. "I'm in constant touch with my office and constantly briefed," he said.

"I would like Mr. Kinnear and his bargaining team to resolve issues at the table with (TTC chief general manager Gary) Webster and his bargaining team. That's how it should be done," said Miller, who is expected home on Sunday.

"I know the TTC is prepared to be fair, but neither the city nor the TTC is in a position to be overly generous," he said, adding that the transit agreement has the potential to set a pattern with other city contracts expiring later this year, including the police service.

"We've chosen to hire significant numbers of new police officers and significant numbers of new bus drivers," Miller said. "We're very pleased with those new investments. We have an obligation to pay our workers fairly and competitively, but there's not the money to be generous in those circumstances."

Miller's relationship with the transit union has been strained since the union's illegal strike in May 2006. He has said the union owed the city an apology, something Kinnear has never offered.

The mayor also backed the TTC's bid to exact compensation from the union for the cost of the strike, under the terms of the contract. The issue was settled last November.

But Kinnear's relationship with Giambrone has been more amicable. The union leader has praised the TTC chair's willingness to listen to workers' concerns even when he doesn't agree with them.

Still, Giambrone restated yesterday his commitment to remaining outside the negotiations.

"I'm not getting involved," he said. "The chair is not the one who should be doing the negotiating."

The TTC's two smaller unions, representing about 500 electrical and communications workers, and 50 machinists and millwrights, have both said they will walk off the job with the ATU's 8,900 members if they go on strike.

At least two city councillors want the province to declare public transit an essential service, which would lead to arbitration and mediation to resolve labour disputes.

"The TTC is an essential service for the people of Toronto," said Councillor Cliff Jenkins (Ward 25, Don Valley West). "We need to be acting on that as quickly as possible to have transit declared an essential service and to have the strike, if there is one, ended," said Jenkins, who with Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport) has drafted a motion to that effect.

Even a one-day loss of transit service, such as the 2006 walkout, causes huge disruptions, Palacio said. "The economic loss and the environmental situation that was created, and the chaos all around the city of Toronto was tremendous, and it was only one day."

Kinnear said back-to-work legislation may already be in the works.

But Premier Dalton McGuinty refused to comment directly on that possibility when asked by reporters in Barrie yesterday. Urging both sides to work harder to reach a deal to avoid commuter chaos, McGuinty said, "Failure is not an option."

Minister of Labour Brad Duguid was evasive when asked how long the government might let a strike drag on. "Let's hope that they can reach an agreement and we won't have to deal with any of that stuff," he told reporters at Queen's Park.

- With files from Paul Moloney, Rob Ferguson, San Grewal and Michele Henry

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