Ottawa's Interminable Bus Strike Ends
After 51 days, Ottawans can perhaps once again look forward to the important services provided by OC Transpo Bus and Light Rail O-Train services. The strike was resolved when the interminable labour dispute seemed to be headed for Federal Government intervention to restore service. City bus service is considered an essential service in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal but as fed-up Ottawa commuters soon learned inner-city and regional public transit services here are not considered (or legislated) as such. With temps in the low 20s and a healthy seasonal accumulation of snow so far this season citizens of Ottawa and those who work in Ottawa and commute in are still waiting for bus and light-rail service. Estimates have been offered by OC Transpo that limited transit-way bus service should resume in 6 days or so followed next by downtown bus service and finally express bus services by early May 2009! Although an offer had been on the table for negotiation since April 2008, Ottawa's mayor and City Council and the OC Transpo labour union reps still had not come to a resolution by December. The strike was launched and lasted 51 days before even an agreement to pass the matter to mediators to resolve issues (with an agreement from both sides to abide by results) was reached. Passed by Ottawa City Councillors the following day, it took OC Transpo 2 days before mechanic's were sent back to work to begin the mammoth job of inspecting, repairing, maintaining and once again certifying under Provincial Safety Transport Standards before finally sending the buses back to work. OC Transpo at least had the foresight to keep up the maintenance on the city's light-rail, rapid transit system, the O-Train. The O-Train will be rolling within days rather than months.
The public's patience with such tactics has been worn thin by this extended labour dispute and readership will likely decline as a result. With this in mind, OC Transpo is offering free, though very limited bus service for one week following service resumption. Some transit pass holders will save on their fares in February '09 as another rider-friendly incentive to ride Ottawa's buses and train again. Declaring OC Transpo service to be an essential public service by Canada's federal government would remove the transit union's future right to strike or cut transit services again so drastically.
Photos from Ottawa's 26 January Strike Protest here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeygottawa/sets/72157613197036147/