Gatineau bus drivers' union threatens rotating strikes as of Thursday

The union for drivers and maintenance workers with the Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) says members could walk off the job Thursday if a meeting does not lead to progress in an ongoing labour dispute.

The union — the Syndicat uni du transport (SUT) — and the transit agency have been at odds during protracted contract negotiations. Last week, the mediator recommended they go to arbitration, but the two sides disagreed over how that arbitration would be executed and what would be on the table.

On Tuesday the union met with its members and — according to information obtained by Radio-Canada following the first meeting — agreed they would call rotating strikes, beginning Thursday, should the STO refuse the arbitration as recommended by a mediator. 

The union intends to strike once a week, and continue current job actions on other days. If there is no movement at the bargaining table, the union would consult again with its members by the end of April.

Strikers would receive $200 a week in the event of a general strike, but it's not clear how much they would receive during rotating strikes. That has some members concerned about the loss of income during any job action.

Wages, sick leave among top issues

The labour union and management can prevent a work stoppage if they agree to arbitration on Wednesday.

The two sides have been at odds over a number of issues, including wages, sick leave and scheduling issues.

In January drivers began taking a number of protest actions, including wearing jeans, refusing to work overtime or special events, and reporting any type of defect on buses, even minor ones, so buses are taken off the road.

The STO responded by sending drivers home if a working bus wasn't available for them.