Oakville Transit Negotiations Stall as Strike Deadline Looms

September 27, 2011, 11:25 AM EST

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Contract negotiations between Oakville Transit and the CAW have stalled and Oakville Transit workers could be forced to take strike action as early as 11:59 p.m. Friday, September 30.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said that after many days of negotiations over the last five months, management at Oakville Transit has failed to address any of the concerns raised by its staff (including issues around scheduling rights, vacations and treatment of injured workers).

"So far, these negotiations have been an utter disappointment," Lewenza said. "The management team has sent a clear signal to our bargaining committee that they are not interested in hearing our concerns and that they are not interested in getting this deal done."

Wages, benefits and other monetary issues have not yet come up for discussion at the bargaining table.

Lewenza lambasted Oakville Transit for its mistreatment of injured workers. The union maintains the company has issued an inordinate number of unjust terminations and suspensions targeting injured workers. The employer has also forced disabled workers (currently off-work receiving WSIB benefits or receiving short-term disability benefits) to use up personal vacation time during their period of recuperation.

CAW Local 1256 President Angus MacDonald said the employer has limited its availability to meet with the union before the strike deadline, which suggests a work stoppage is imminent.

"This is an unfortunate situation, one that we have desperately tried to avoid," MacDonald said. "Our members are concerned, not just for their own standard of living, but for the impact a work stoppage will have on transit service in the community."

MacDonald said the union is doing everything in its power to bargain a fair settlement in an effort to avoid a strike. In the event of a strike, union members have committed to continue operating all local car-A-van services for citizens with disabilities.

"In my 10 years of bargaining experience, I have never seen an employer act with such total disregard for the bargaining process as Oakville Transit is doing today," said CAW National Staff Representative Paulo Ribeiro, who is overseeing the Oakville Transit negotiations for the union.

The CAW represents 180 workers at Oakville Transit, including drivers, mechanics and cleaners. The transit workers contract expired on May 15.

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