TTC union deserves no sympathy
by Arthur Weinreb, Associate Editor,
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
"We are law-abiding people
" These words were contained in a press release that was issued by Bob Kinnear, the president of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union when he announced that he was ordering his union back to work after the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that the transit strike was illegal and ordered the union back to work. His description of his union as "law-abiding" was laughable, not to mention somewhat dishonest since the order he decided to comply with was the second such order made by the Board within the space of a few hours. Kinnear ignored the first order while he tried to argue that his members were actually locked out; a difficult argument to make when some of his yahoo members were bragging in front of the cameras about how they walked off the job.
The dispute between management and the union first reached the public consciousness last week when Kinnear announced that his operators and ticket takers would no longer enter into arguments with customers who refused to pay the full $2.75 fare. According to the union, assaults against TTC employees had risen by 31% between 1999 and 2003. In a city where Mayor David Miller and his left wing cronies rank violent crime as being less important than the welfare of trees, the TTC operators gained a fair bit of sympathy from the public about their working conditions.
What really caused the illegal work stoppage was not the number of assaults on TTC employees but the fact that the TTC had decided to switch some cleaning staff from the day shift to the night shift. The number of employees involved in this horrendous act perpetrated by management: 22. For that, the entire system was ground to a halt without notice to the public, forcing 800,000 people to scramble to find alternate modes of transportation on a day when temperatures were at record levels and a smog alert was issued. What was telling in Kinnears "were law-abiding people" press release was that not one word in the six paragraph statement expressed any regret for the effect that their illegal act had on the public.
As far as TTC operators being the victims of assaults and threats too bad, so sad. While violence upon TTC employees should not be condoned, in light of what happened yesterday, they simply arent worth spending any time worrying about. For those employees, like the one operatoress who whined to the media that "my life is worth more than $2.75" they are free to quit their jobs. Good riddance. Contrary to their claims of "professionalism" which they clearly showed yesterday that they lack, driving a bus or operating a streetcar or subway train isnt exactly rocket science. Toronto happens to be a city that is teeming with foreign-born doctors, lawyers, engineers and undoubtedly even a few rocket scientists, most of whom would gladly give up their jobs of driving a taxi through Torontos crime ridden neighbourhoods in the middle of the night for a chance to get a pampered position with the Toronto Transit Commission, complete with benefits that are paid for out of the taxes of the people who were forced to walk to work in yesterdays heat.
There will be economic fallout from the unions illegal walkout beyond the loss suffered in lost productivity during the day of the strike. The news of the chaos that erupted in Canadas largest city made news around the world including China, India and of course, the United States. The citys labour instability was no doubt not lost on convention planners and others who will now be deterred from choosing Toronto as a tourist or business destination. Then again, who cares? Certainly not Bob Kinnear and his union goofs.
If there was any comic relief during the day of sweltering heat and bumper to bumper traffic it had to be the way Mayor David Miller kept using the word "illegal" to describe the unions action. When something is described as "illegal" it implies that there will be consequences. As tempting as holding ones breath is during these smog laden days, no one should do it waiting for Kinnear and his union to suffer any. They wont lose anything that they wont make up for in their next collective agreement.
And the next time you hear the transit union complain about what a difficult time they have on the job, dont feel sorry for them. They dont give a damn about you.