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Toronto Transit Commission workers’ union properly reads the mood of the city for once: no strikes during contract negotiations, says leader Bob Kinnear

TTC union chief Bob Kinnear made a speech yesterday that demonstrated a quality we haven’t seen from the union since the last work stoppage: labour leaders that can read the mood of the city. Toronto, after all, voted in a union-stomping mayor in part because they were sick of strikes from both the TTC and the city’s outside workers. With the province moving quickly to approve Rob Ford’s promise to make the TTC an essential service, the union is trying to slow things down a little by promising not to strike during this round of contract negotiations.

According to the Toronto Sun:

Kinnear, flanked by the leaders of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2 and the Machinists Union, said there is no need to “ram through legislation.”

“We will act as if an essential service law is already in effect,” Kinnear said. “Mayor Ford along with (TTC chairman Karen Stintz) have said very clearly that they don’t want a disruption in service and that’s why they are proposing this sort of legislation, we are offering that commitment here today.”

Kinnear is making this offer for a number of reasons. First, the TTC union and management are opposed to making their workers an essential service (though they have different motivations). Kinnear warns that there are legal challenges ahead—the province can declare the TTC an essential service, but the union can appeal that decision, and the last time a province peremptorily removed labour rights from a public union in a hurry, the government of British Columbia got slapped down by the Canadian Supreme Court, setting a new legal precedent in the process.

There’s no guarantee for any side going into a court fight, so Kinnear is offering to resolve some of the ambiguity for the near future anyway, and perhaps slow the rush to “essential service” status. Of course, there were already MPPs at Queen’s Park discussing this move before Ford’s election, so stopping this train might be beyond even the powers of the TTC union.

• Text of Bob Kinnear’s speech [Toronto Sun]TTC workers won’t strike during upcoming talks: Union [Toronto Sun] • TTC won’t strike during contract negotiations: Kinnear [National Post]

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