STO driver warns riders of potential strikes during morning commute

STO driver warns riders of potential strikes during morning commute

A Gatineau transit bus driver used his microphone to discuss union demands with passengers on board a moving bus Thursday morning, warning that periodic strikes could happen if the Société de transport de l'Outaouais rejects arbitration next week.

The unusual public demonstration, witnessed by a Radio-Canada producer, happened as the bus left Labrosse station, and it continued for nearly two minutes before one passenger shouted in French, "That's enough!"

The driver then replied, "If you're not happy, complain to the mayor of Gatineau," to which the passenger replied, "You, too!"

The union and the transit agency have been at odds over protracted contract negotiations, and while there has not been a work stoppage, the dispute has led to more bus cancellations and longer waits for passengers.

Work-to-rule tactics began in January

In January drivers began making 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.

When asked about Thursday's outburst, union president Félix Gendron said drivers were not given instructions to talk to passengers as part of pressure tactics.

The STO said it was not aware of the incident and had not received a complaint. But a spokesperson confirmed a similar incident happened Wednesday aboard an STO bus, though it is not clear if it was the same bus or a different one.

The two sides have been in mediation in an attempt to negotiate a contract. Last week the mediator recommended they go to arbitration, but the two sides disagreed over how that arbitration would be executed.

The union is set to meet Tuesday and some 600 members are expected to attend.

Gendron said any labour action, including whether to strike, wouldn't happen until after the STO and union meet again Wednesday with the mediator.