Gatineau bus drivers and maintenance workers will be walking off the job Thursday in the first of rotating strikes after meetings with the Société de transport de l'Outaouais failed to resolve their differences.
The STO had sought on Wednesday to block a potential strike, arguing the union had not given 72-hours' notice of the strike. But the Canadian Industrial Relations Board ruled the strike was legal.
Workers to strike once a week
The union — Syndicat uni du transport (SUT) — said it intends to strike once a week, beginning Thursday, and continue current job actions on other days. Union president Félix Gendron said the strike will be held on a different day each week and that the public will be advised 24 hours in advance which day it is.
If there is no movement at the bargaining table, the union had said they would consult again with its members by the end of April.
The two sides had met with a mediator Wednesday afternoon in an effort to resolve their long-running dispute.
The union was pushing for arbitration to break the labour stalemate, while earlier on Wednesday afternoon STO leadership had unveiled a new offer in an effort to prevent a strike Thursday.
The offer was for a five-year deal retroactive to 2015, with wage increases of 1.5 per cent from 2015 to 2017 and increases of 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The 2015 increase would be a lump sum payment.
The STO also proposed reducing the number of annual leave days from 14 to 11 in return for a four-day wage premium for employees who are absent three days or less during a year. And it proposed creating a joint committee to look at issues with bus schedules.
STO president Gilles Carpentier had said he hoped the improved offer would restart the negotiation process.
The union and the transit agency have been at odds during the protracted contract negotiations, and the dispute has spilled over into the public as it has dragged on.
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.