Lia Lévesque, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — The bus drivers of the Société de transport de Laval say they are ready to strike again, while negotiations to renew their collective agreement drag on.
They have not yet decided on such a strike mandate, but a survey to which 473 of the 625 drivers responded, and which The Canadian Press was able to consult, indicates that 87% of them are ready to hold other days. of strike. Even 74% are ready for an indefinite strike.
STL drivers had already held strike days last November, with essential services maintained.
The collective agreement of the 625 STL bus drivers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), affiliated with the FTQ, expired in August 2019.
There was mediation, without reaching an agreement. The STL has even offered to submit the dispute to arbitration, but CUPE refuses, saying it prefers to negotiate.
wages and inflation
The dispute is mainly about wages.
The inflationary surge, “we must take it into account in our regulations”, argues in an interview Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, economist at CUPE, responsible for the file. He notes that it reached 3.8% last year and 5% this year.
“We want to have a discussion on salaries. If we don’t get that within a few weeks, or I’d rather say two weeks, we’ll be ready to consult our members for greater pressure tactics, so on strike, warns Mr. Sylvestre. And our members will follow us.”
The STL explains that, like all public transit companies, its revenues have been greatly affected by the drop in ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We work with the money given to us. And the ARTM, the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority, gives us for this year an increase in our income, for our remuneration, for our expenses of 2%. With 2%, we are not capable of increasing salaries by 5%,” explained the general manager of the STL, Guy Picard.
Transit companies are still struggling today; the situation is “catastrophic”, reports Mr. Picard. Ridership at the STL did not reach 60% of the usual level. “We are an industry that lives on the artificial respirator”, thanks to government subsidies, he says.
He regrets that the union still evokes a possible recourse to the strike. “Each time the union goes on strike — and this is its most legitimate right — we found it regrettable that it took the population hostage. Clients do not have to pay for a disagreement between an employer and its union,” exclaims Mr. Picard.
The consultation also reveals that 84% of the bus drivers who responded find that the STL does not treat its employees well. Also, 92% find that the work climate is bad.