TTC workers have right to go on strike, Ontario court rules
Toronto transit workers have won the right to strike after an Ontario judge ruled this week that the law that banned them from walking off the job is unconstitutional.
In a decision on Monday, Ontario Superior Court of Justice William Chalmers ruled that legislation that forbade TTC workers from engaging in strike action violates Charter rights. The law, the Toronto Transit Commission Labour Disputes Resolution Act, 2011, known as the TTC Act, was passed by the previous Ontario Liberal government.
"I am satisfied on the evidence before me that the complete prohibition of the right to strike has resulted in a substantial interference with the meaningful process of collective bargaining," Chalmers wrote in the ruling.
Chalmers argued the Ontario government failed to prove that the TTC is an essential service as defined in case law.
In the ruling, Chalmers said a TTC strike would not harm or endanger the safety or health of some or all of the city's population, and that government has not proven that there would be significant economic consequences from a TTC strike.
"In reaching this conclusion, I acknowledge that there are millions of TTC users each day. I also acknowledge that many of the people who rely on the TTC are from equity seeking groups," he wrote.
"However, the evidence before me on this application with respect to the economic consequences of a TTC strike is not persuasive. The government did not offer an economic expert."
Instead, Chalmers said the province relied on reports from 2008.
He also said the TTC went on strike in 1991, 1999, 2006 and 2008, but the strikes were not lengthy.
The union's collective agreement expires March 31, 2024. The government had asked the court to delay the implementation of the ruling until after that date, but Chalmers declined to do so, saying the request was unreasonable.
Marvin Alfred, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents more than 12,000 TTC workers, said in a statement on Monday that the union is proud that it won its fight to protect the right of its members to strike.
Alfred called the ruling an "important decision confirming the right to strike for working people." He said the legislation illegally limited collective bargaining for union members.
"This is an historic win for transit workers in Canada," Alfred said in the statement.
"The court has delivered a major victory for free collective bargaining in Ontario and for our local. Our members' Charter rights have been violated for more than a decade. Fortunately, we are now able to return to the bargaining table without unfair government interference."