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Unifor Served Two Big Blows

The Canadian labour movement is successful when we work together. That is what makes Unifor’s ongoing efforts to raid other unions so damaging to our movement – it puts the wages, benefits and safety conditions we fought for at risk as they seek to divide us and waste our resources fighting each other.

With no surprise to Sisters and Brothers, Unifor recently faced two big blows regarding their actions to undermine our movement’s progress. Please read below and remember: when we work together, we win.

  1. Public Review Board Rules Against Unifor’s Unilateral Disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress

Rank and File reports that the Unifor National Executive Board was found guilty by the their own Public Review Board of violating their constitution in unilaterally disaffiliating from the Canadian Labour Congress. Unifor Local 222 (Oshawa) filed the appeal.

Read more about Unifor Local 222’s appeal of Unifor’s unilateral disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress in the Rank and File story here.

  1. Ontario Labour Relations Board Rules Against Unifor’s Application for Interim Relief in Raid of UNITE HERE 75 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel

In a recent ruling, the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled against Unifor’s application for interim relief. It was officially dismissed and stifles Unifor’s efforts to raid UNITE HERE Local 75 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Read the full decision from the Ontario Labour Relations Board on August 7th, 2018.

In the Community: Toronto Caribbean Carnival

Over a million tourists flock to Toronto every summer to celebrate the city’s thriving Caribbean community. When the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, formerly known as Caribana, began in 1967, it was just three days. Now, the festival has grown into North America’s largest with four weeks of events.

On August 4, ATU Local 113 joined the festivities by marching in the carnival’s Grand Parade. Surrounded by colourful costumes and great food, ATU Local 113 Sisters and Brothers played music and danced along the route. Toronto’s transit system knits our city’s many neighborhoods into one of the world’s most vibrant urban areas. It is an important goal of ATU Local 113 to go beyond simply connecting people and places, but also reaching out and staying in touch with those our Sisters and Brothers serve.

Chris Jones in front of ATU Local 113’s Toronto Caribbean Festival float – fitted with drums and sparkles!

Thank you to everyone who participated. See you next year!

Read: Uploading subway system a disaster-in-waiting

Read and share John Lorinc’s article in Spacing Toronto which explores how Premier Doug Ford’s pledge to upload the subway system will deliver administrative chaos, political conflict, and planning gridlock.

It can’t be said too often, or too loudly: Premier Doug Ford’s pledge to upload the subway system will become the Brexit of Toronto politics: a promise balanced on the most dubious of mandates, barely scrutinized during the election (I’m looking at you, Andrea Horwath and Kathleen Wynne) and certain to deliver administrative chaos, political conflict and planning gridlock for years to come.

Indeed, let’s be frank about what’s about to occur: the Progressive Conservative government is preparing to steal (and perhaps eventually flip) a multi-billion municipal asset that’s been heavily funded by Toronto taxpayers and commuters for decades. Ford last week re-confirmed that he would proceed in a response to a milquetoast request for consultation from Mayor John Tory.

Council is meeting today to figure out a legal response to the Tories’ decision to slash the number of wards in the middle of an election. But why the subway upload threat isn’t the topic on everyone’s lips right now is beyond me. Make no mistake: this, and not the size of council, is the move that changes everything. And anyone who doubts that claim should go to New York City and observe the extravagant mess created in a subway system that’s been starved and mis-managed by a neglectful state government.

Given that neither mayoral candidate nor city council has bothered to fill the information void about the implications of a subway upload, here’s a partial list of what will be lurking inside this Pandora’s box:

The Leaking Fare Box

If the province wants to detach one part of a deeply integrated transit network, it will presumably want the subway’s revenues, which means someone is going to have to figure out a formula for allocating fare revenue among the modes – a wicked problem if there ever was one. Just consider this: If you take the bus to a subway station and then finish your journey on a streetcar, which part of your $3.25 fare paid for that middle portion?

(Clarification: The Tories claimed during the election they’d only upload the asset and let the TTC continue operating the subways. As the Toronto Star‘s transportation reporter Ben Spurr pointed out this morning, government officials have made ambiguous statements in the past week about the full extent of what’s envisioned. Transportation minister John Yakabuski said everything was on the table, but a spokesperson later insisted the upload is limited only to the ownership of the assets.)

The TTC in 2017 generated $1.2 billion from fares and the subways carried 230 million passengers. But it’s not clear how to divvy up the revenue, particularly because the TTC’s network of feeder bus and streetcar routes is so crucial to getting bodies onto the subway. What is generally understood is that some portions of the subway are very profitable, and their surpluses help subsidize the rest of the system, including those parts of the subway network that lose money (e.g., Sheppard, parts of Bloor-Danforth, Spadina). Removing it will make the rest of the TTC a lot more expensive to operate.

Now let’s think about the City of Toronto’s $750 million operating grant to the TTC – the second largest line item on the municipal operating budget. What portion of that giant subsidy goes towards supporting subway operations? Again, the answer is not obvious. Yet what seems perfectly evident is that if the province uploads the subway, council’s funding of what remains of the TTC will shrink.

Last point here. Who decides on the formula? Or are we looking at shifting to a system where you pay one fare for the buses and streetcars, and another when you transfer to the subway, as is the case with GO and the TTC now. If the Ford government wants this asset, it will want the revenues . Yet the quantum of those revenues are determined entirely by Toronto council and the TTC (for those with short memories, the Mike Harris government ended provincial operating subsidy to the TTC in 1997). Somehow, the formula will need to be negotiated, and it’s anybody’s guess how those talks will play out.

The Liability Landmine

The TTC’s balance sheet notes that the subway system had a net book value in 2017 of $2.3 billion (i.e., after depreciation). That figure doesn’t include the value of the rolling stock and the tracks. It’s a big, expensive asset, with equally formidable liabilities.

Almost a quarter of the City’s $39 billion ten-year capital budget will be spent on the TTC between now and 2027  (the figure doesn’t include Smart Track). New-build projects like the Scarborough Subway Extension will receive a portion of that total, but 92% of the $39 billion represent outlays for either state-of-good-repair or legislated projects. And according to the TTC’s 2018-2027 capital budget report, $5.2 billion will go to subway expenditures (page 14).

That $5.2 billion is all for the unsexy aspects of owning a subway: signal upgrades, track repairs, new subway cars, etc. This is a long-term financial obligation on the owner of the system. In other words, if the province wants to assume control of the subway, all those mainly debt-funded liabilities – repairs, replacement of aging rolling stock, etc. – come with the package. You don’t get one without the other. In other words, the Ford government is going to have to add at least $5 billion in new debt to its books — a story that likely won’t go down so well in small town Ontario.

Remember, too, that council in the dying days of the Rob Ford administration approved a property tax levy that will raise about $1 billion over 30 years for the construction of the $3.65 billion Scarborough extension. If the province scoops the subway, there’s no reason I can imagine why council would continue collecting that levy. (As an experiment, ask your ward councilor and the mayoral candidates if they’d support continuing with this tax in the event of an upload.) If a post-subway council decides to turn off that funding tap, Doug Ford & Co. will have to find a further $1 billion to bring subway service to the deserving folk of Scarborough — hardly what Ford is aiming to do with the provincial budget.

The Workforce Mess

When you see a TTC employee in a ticket booth, or a cleaner working at a subway station, or an inspector monitoring fare compliance, ask yourself which portion of their time can be attributed to the subway’s operations, the bus network or the streetcars. With senior planning and procurement personnel at the TTC’s head office, one can pose the same question: which aspects of their duties involve the subways, and which have to do with the rest of the system?

Sure, there are TTC employees who only work in the subway system. But there are lots of other TTC staff – both in the bargaining unit and in management – whose responsibilities span all the modes. Which, of course, is a rational, efficient and, frankly, sane way of running an integrated transit system.

Trying to surgically remove the portion involved in operating the subway is like trying to figure out how many vertebrae can be removed from a spine before the whole body collapses under its own weight.

Yet this is what awaits us. Ask anyone in the investment banking/leveraged buy-out world how tough corporate carve-outs are. It’s rarely easy hiving off a portion of a corporation. But in an organization like the TTC, where the service lines are so intertwined, the task will be mind-bogglingly complex.

The excising process, however, will produce much costly and unproductive work for management consultants and HR specialists. Creating two organizations to do the work of one, moreover, means duplication and additional operating expense, not the opposite.

Now think about the labour relations piece: If Ford hopes his hived off subwayco will be non-unionized, he’s delusional. What’s more, thanks to the advocacy of Ford and his late brother, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals made the TTC an essential service back in 2011. What that policy means is that while the Amalgamated Transit Union (Local 113) can’t strike to protest the provincial upload and the division of the TTC’s bargaining unit, contract negotiations for the new local serving Toronto Subway Co. will certainly end up with an arbitrator, who will impose a contract identicals to the one the TTC now has.

So even if the province intends to merge the subway with GO Transit, the management and payroll costs of running the lines will go up because the economies of scale of an integrated operation are lost.

The Planning Nightmare

Where to begin?

The subway system, for all the obvious reasons, is deeply embedded in the city’s planning mechanisms, from the official plan to secondary plans to local zoning bylaws. A shift in ownership doesn’t change the physical reality of the subway’s presence in and under the city, but it does raise all manner of thorny questions about how the province intends to carry out planning around everything from maintenance-related or emergency subway closures to public consultations for expansions, service level changes, etc.

There are financial reverberations here as well, given that the city allocates a portion of millions collected through development charges (DC) to transit capital outlays (35 and 44% of the levies collected from residential and commercial projects respectively go to the TTC’s capital budget; the city expects to collect a total of $1.34 billion through DCs over the next decade). If the city is no longer responsible for paying for the subway, the building industry will probably want to renegotiate those levies.

Then there are all the problems associated with inter-agency planning, which is where the upload takes us. GO Transit and the TTC have historically had a great deal of difficulty working together, although that’s begun to change. But under this new arrangement, the two levels will have to set up an elaborate system of intergovernmental mechanisms to deal with everything from access to the subway stations to coordinating road closures relating to the construction of new lines.

At the macro level, which is no doubt where Ford’s attention is focused, the province will be able to prioritize new capital projects, presumably to reward specific constituencies. I’d say it’s a given that the Relief Line will be sent to the back of the queue indefinitely while new subways out to Richmond Hill and other remote locales will be prioritized. Such moves, as many critics have warned for years, will eventually cause the system to become critically over-crowded, unsafe and unusable. The best one can say about that scenario is that the Tories will have no one to blame but themselves. They broke it, so they’ll own it. However, the city, its residents and its businesses will pay dearly in the long run.

So What Now?

There’s little doubt Queen’s Park has the jurisdictional authority to upload the subway. But when it does, it will also have to take on the billions of dollars in financial responsibilities associated with the care and feeding of one of the largest pieces of transportation infrastructure in the province. Like a contaminated piece of brownfield land, the future cost of cleaning it up travels with the title. (To choose another analogy, the upload will be the inverse of the Harris government’s move to download Ontario’s social housing complexes, with their extravagantly costly repair bills, on the city back in the late 1990s.)

So what now?

Although the legislature has risen from its dizzying special summer session, it would hardly be surprising to discover that Ford — who has displayed an increasingly unhealthy instinct to meddle in the business of Toronto council — intends to fast-track the subway upload and ram a law through during the miasma of the municipal election season.

But until the legislature resumes sitting, Toronto politicians have a very short window of opportunity, during which they can frame this move in the way it desperately needs to be framed. Sooner or later, Ford will fill the void with misinformation – all the usual blather about finding efficiencies and involving the private sector.

For municipal officials to sit back and wait for that to happen would be a critical, city-altering mistake. City officials know just what a mess the upload will create, and they are in a position to quantify to residents – in Toronto and beyond – the full financial implications, for both the province and the city.

Mostly, I want to hear what John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat have to say. Given what’s at stake, their messages should be a lot more robust than delicately asking to be consulted. Will they demand financial compensation for Toronto taxpayers who’ve invested in this asset for years? Threaten legal action? Rally residents? Take to the airwaves? And are they prepared to make it abundantly clear to Ford that his Tories will feel the political blowback in Toronto’s 25 ridings for years to come if he proceeds?

I am hoping the answer is yes to all of the above. After all, this development will occur on the watch of one of the two individuals running for the city’s highest office. Certainly, I know if it were me, I wouldn’t want to go down in Toronto history as the mayor who lost the subway.

Get Involved with Hands Off Toronto! – a TTCriders Public Meeting

As early as next week, Bill 5—Premier Ford’s plan to slash Toronto City Council—could become reality, not just mere talk.

Bill 5 is about more than saving money for taxpayers. It’s all about provincial control, similar to Ford’s plan to take control over our subways.

Join TTCriders at Metropolitan United Church (56 Queen Street East) next Thursday, August 16th between 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM for a crucial public meeting that will explore challenges to the Bill and how all of us can take action.

Don’t delay and RSVP today, the meeting is expected to be a full house! Don’t forget to share on Facebook.

Note: TTCriders is a democratic volunteer-led organization of transit riders.

If you can’t join the public meeting next Thursday, below are upcoming TTCriders events you should know about:

Ward Meetings

Between now and October 22nd, members of TTCriders and other community members are meeting with City Council candidates to ask if they support fair TTC funding and fighting back against the province’s takeover of our subway system. Sign up to meet with candidates in your neighbourhood.

TTCriders Art Party

Put your design and crafty skills to use for public transit, and help TTCriders make banners, memes, and art for upcoming actions. Can’t make it but want to lend your design skills to future projects? Contact milan@ttcriders.ca.

When: Tuesday, August 14th, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Where: 3rd floor, 720 Bathurst Street

Please RSVP.

Outreach at Wheels on the Danforth

Help TTCriders spread the word about their outreach campaigns for lower TTC fares and better service at this summer festival. RSVP today to join.

When: Saturday, August 18th, 12:00 PM-2:00 PM

Where: Corner of Danforth Ave and Danforth Road

Monthly Organizing Meeting

The Campaigns Committee of TTCriders meets on the first Monday of every month except for holidays, at the Centre for Social Innovation. If interested, RSVP so that the organizers are aware of your interest to participate.

Read about the TTCriders’ committees and campaigns here.

When: Monday, September 10, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM (New member orientation at 5:30 PM)

Where: 720 Bathurst Street, 3rd floor

In Case You Missed It: Latest News from the Toronto and York Region Labour Council

Source: Toronto and York Region Labour Council

  • WESTJET WORKERS WIN!
  • THE ABUSE OF POWER BEGINS
  • DEFEND DEMOCRACY, HANDS OFF TORONTO – AUG 16
  • SUMMER LABOUR ACTION
  • HEAVY EQUIPMENT APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM
  • SAY NO TO FAR-RIGHT HATE GROUPS – AUG 11

WESTJET ATTENDANTS WIN UNION VOICE
After a long, exciting organizing campaign, CUPE has been certified by the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to represent 3,000 mainline flight attendants at WestJet. CUPE has been working with WestJetters for the past year to deliver strong union representation for flight attendants and is now officially recognized as the bargaining agent. This is one of the largest organizing victories in Canada this decade! Congratulations to all involved. CUPE’s efforts to unionize flight attendants at WestJet’s regional carrier, Encore, and low-cost carrier, Swoop, are also ongoing. Click for more info.

THE ABUSE OF POWER BEGINS
The Conservatives are ramming Bill 5 through Queen’s Park right now. This interference in elections that are already underway is unprecedented in Canadian history. It shows the same contempt for democracy that marked the Mike Harris regime the last time Conservatives ran the province. Labour Council is calling on all people who care about democracy and fairness to take action. This is just the start of what will be an ongoing abuse of power by the Ford regime. Behind it will be a drive to privatize services and sell off public assets. Click to read entire Labour Council statement.
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The next few days are crucial! YOU CAN…

DEFEND DEMOCRACY – HANDS OFF TORONTO – AUG 16
Mobilize now for a mass public meeting to raise the voices of Toronto in defense of democracy and a City that works for all its residents. Come find out about legal challenges to Bill 5, community organizing, and what you can do! Asking EVERYONE from all walks of life who care about Toronto to come to this meeting to meet others who also want to defend democracy and say HANDS OFF TORONTO! Go to Facebook for more information and share the event on your Facebook page and invite your friends too!

Click on the Eventbrite link to make sure you have RSVP’d for this meeting – we expect to run out of space – so don’t delay, click today!

LABOUR ACTION IN THE MAIL
The Summer 2018 Labour Action is out. Municipal Report Card RELEASED! Read what grade your current councillors received – go to Page 8. Are you shocked by what Doug Ford’s Conservatives are doing at Queen’s Park? Go to page 2 to read about Labour Council’s plan for the next four years. Check out the back page!! The mice are asking questions!!!

HEAVY EQUIPMENT APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM ACCEPTING APPLICATION
IUOE Local 793 Area Offices are accepting Heavy Equipment Apprenticeship Applications for 2018/2019. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has apprenticeship programs for heavy equipment operators in Ontario. The apprenticeship programs includes both an in-school and an on-the-job component. Each occupation is a 2,000 – 2,500 hour apprenticeship which includes 240 hours of in-school training. If you are interested in applying, contact IUOE Local 793.

SAY NO TO FAR-RIGHT HATE GROUPS – AUG 11
Racists, neo-Nazis and Islamophobic groups are rallying at Toronto City Hall (Nathan Phillips Square) on Saturday August 11 to spew hatred against Muslims, immigrants and people of colour in our communities. This date marks one year since the horrific events in Charlottesville, North Carolina when far-right hate groups rampaged, killing young anti-racist activist Heather Heyer and injuring many others. Join Labour Council’s Rapid Response Team on August 11 at 1:30 pm to show dignified opposition to racism and hatred. Come to the west side of Nathan Philips Square. Bring flags and banners. For info facebook.com/events/661828034173325/

Toronto & York Region Labour Council
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Your New Website has Arrived!

The ATU Local 113 Executive Board is proud to bring you the new-and-improved members website. This is a one-stop hub where you will find the most updated information from the workers that keep Toronto moving – as it happens.

Members, register now for exclusive access to:

  • Executive Board updates
  • The latest news
  • Advocacy campaigns
  • Community events listings
  • Answers to your on-the-job and pension questions
  • Deals and discounts

We listened, and now, the new website is here – making it easier for you to stay informed, connected and engaged.

Read: Builders of $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown transit line in Toronto sue for more time and money

Read The Globe and Mail story below from Oliver Moore, their urban transportation reporter, for another example of how Private-Public-Partnerships (P3s) cost taxpayers more money and impacts service for riders. We must keep all aspects of Toronto’s transit system in public hands.

Builders of $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown transit line in Toronto sue for more time and money (Oliver Moore, July 11, 2018)

The companies building the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown in Toronto, Canada’s biggest transit project, have gone to court seeking more time and money to finish the already delayed light-rail line.

The construction consortium doing the project has filed a notice of motion alleging that actions by Metrolinx, the regional transit agency, and others have delayed their work. The legal salvo comes after talks between Metrolinx and the consortium failed to settle continuing disputes about the project.

Metrolinx has not responded in court to the claims, and said in a statement that it remains “committed” to the target date of opening the line in the fall of 2021.

A spokeswoman for Crosslinx Transit Solutions, a partnership of infrastructure giants that is building the project, would not elaborate on the legal filing. The partnership includes companies such as Aecon, EllisDon and SNC-Lavalin.

“What I’ll confirm with you is we’ve filed a notice of action against Metrolinx for a breach of contract,” Kristin Jenkins said. “But beyond that we’re not going to get into the details. The process is under way.”

Crosslinx is seeking compensation for increased costs, for which they blame the defendants.

Ms. Jenkins would not clarify how much money or time Crosslinx wants, or whether the request to extend to timeline is an insurance policy or an acknowledgement the consortium cannot meet the 2021 deadline.

Crosslinx’s notice of motion was filed on Tuesday in Ontario Superior Court. Metrolinx has 30 days to respond with a statement of defence.

The Crosstown is a 19-kilometre light-rail line across the city’s midtown. The central portion is underground, and the parts at either end are to run on the surface.

The project is a public-private partnership, an arrangement in which the private sector is intended to absorb cost overruns. As the legal filing shows, the question of who is responsible for delays can be contentious.

The Crosstown was initially supposed to be ready in the fall of 2020. Metrolinx added a year to the timeline about three years ago, with the minister of transportation at the time saying the delay would help mitigate disruption.

However, the construction done so far on the Crosstown, particularly the underground work, has brought a wave of complaints from the neighbourhoods through which it will run. Complaints include traffic havoc, noise and other problems. Any extension of these issues will make residents furious, a local politician warned.

“Everyone supports the dream of improved rapid transit, but the construction process is a nightmare, and nobody wants that nightmare to continue a day or night longer than it needs to,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, through whose ward the line will run.

“If it does become a situation where there’s going to be another delay, watch out. The anger will be something that I don’t think we’ve ever heard from before … it’ll be fireworks.”

The Crosslinx notice of motion alleges that the defendants, which include Metrolinx and the Ontario Infrastructure and Lands Corporation, breached the terms of the construction agreement and that “a number of events and circumstances” delayed work. According to the legal filing, these were “beyond the reasonable control” of Crosslinx and “many resulted in the actions and inactions” of the defendants “and others.”

The claim alleges that work by utility companies took longer than the time set out by the defendants, and that there were problems with “permits, licenses and approvals.”

Ms. Jenkins, the Crosslinx spokeswoman, would not provide further details on the claims. The lawyer whose name was listed in the filing did not respond on Wednesday afternoon to a call seeking comment.

In an e-mailed statement, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster expressed hope a resolution can be reached.

“Metrolinx has been working closely with Crosslinx over several months on their alleged reasons for a claim,” he said. “As with any contract, claims are considered and reviewed thoroughly and we continue to work with Crosslinx to reach an outcome that fairly addresses the challenges that they have encountered on Eglinton.”