Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Scope Today+possibility of a transit strike

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The more they move on, the more they come back to how they used to be. All cycles have peaks and troughs. You're coming out of a low and starting a long climb to the top.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

You feel torn between sticking up for yourself and capitulating over what you thought was important. It's somehow managed to slip you into a defensive frame of mind. It would be best to extricate yourself from this pointless power struggle.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

You are expending more energy and effort than you should concerning a certain matter. Let more time pass and you will find that many of your problems will solve themselves. Take a broad view.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

The full moon is here. Our night luminary is working on delivering a promising development. You'll be surprised and happy to discover that the worst of a certain drama is over. And it can only get better.

Read Phil Booth at boothstars.com or at thestar.com/horoscope.

Riders weigh in on 'essential service'
STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR
Jonathan Bunce, outside Union Station April 29, 2008, says the possibility of a transit strike motivated him to buy a new bike. But he's not in favour of making the TTC an essential service.
McGuinty's musings spark debate over rights of TTC workers
April 20, 2008


Staff Reporters

Should the country's largest public transit system, which 1.5 million people count on daily to get to their destinations, be deemed an essential service?

It depends on whom you talk to. For those who see the TTC as their only means of transportation, and unable to rent a car, buy a bike in time or get a ride from others, Premier Dalton McGuinty's musings about declaring the TTC an essential service is a welcome move.

"I use it every day to go to my work at St. Andrew subway station (at King and University). Without it, I'd have to walk to work or walk to do anything in the city," said TTC commuter Gabriella Vera, a financial underwriter who lives near Christie and Bloor Sts.

"Public transit should be an essential service in this city. They can reduce their service but they can't shut it down."

Yesterday, both the City of Toronto and the Amalgamated Transit Union representing 9,000 TTC workers continued their negotiations at a Richmond Hill hotel. The parties have until 4 p.m. today to reach a settlement.

On Friday, McGuinty sparked the debate over declaring the TTC an essential service by warning that a transit strike would cripple the economy and cause havoc for the system's daily riders.

Sarah Wetmore, an outreach worker with an international charity based in Toronto, uses the TTC every day to get to local schools and communities to do presentations.

"How do I go to all these places to give speeches and workshops?" asked Wetmore, as she waited for a train at Union Station yesterday.

While business analyst Kashif Chandani has looked into spending $30 a day to rent a car to get to work in Etobicoke from his North York home, he's not sure the essential service designation is fair.

As a commuter who uses the TTC daily, he says he thinks it's "a good idea, since more than 1 million people use it every day."

However, he added, it would take away the right to strike from the workers.

"It takes their leverage away in the bargaining," Chandani said.

But the city is reluctant to take that route.

Declaring the TTC an essential service would put transit workers on the same footing as police and firefighters, forbidden by law from striking, but beneficiaries of arbitrated wage settlements that often are more lucrative than those achieved through collective bargaining.

Accusing McGuinty of trying to deflect responsibility onto the city, transit union boss Bob Kinnear said he believes the TTC and city politicians are trying to push the workers to walk out so they can be legislated back to work

"It's a little perplexing that McGuinty would initiate a debate on whether we're an essential service. He's in his fifth year as premier. Has he just realized the importance of transit?" asked Kinnear.

A transit strike is "not a matter of life and death," pointed out Jonathan Bunce, who lives near Dundas and Keele Sts. and works at Queen St. and University Ave.

The artistic director of a music company has just bought a $300 bike at Kensington Market's Bikes on Wheels to replace an old bicycle stolen last October.

"I'm not that concerned about the strike, but it certainly gave me the motivation to buy my new bike," Bunce said.

"I don't think the government should declare TTC an essential service because it's disrespectful to the union by taking away their right to strike."

The transit workers say they are looking for the same benefits and wages that other Toronto-area operators and city workers receive.

It's their unwillingness to strike – the union has only been off the job 11 days in the past 25 years – that has put TTC workers behind, said Kinnear.

But management has so far refused to put any new benefit money on the table.

"You don't want to shut down the city for 20 cents," he said, "but those 5 cents and 10 cents have added up."

The TTC has suggested that some worker premiums might be redistributed among the entire union.

TTC workers, unlike most Ontario employees, get their provincial health tax paid by the company and receive Sunday shift premiums.

They do not, however, get paid their regular wages when they call in sick.

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