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President Carlos Santos asks Premier Ford to Reconsider Suspending Transit Workers’ CBA Rights

Please see below for a letter ATU Local 113 President Carlos Santos sent Premier Doug Ford on April 17, 2020 requesting that the Premier reconsiders suspending transit workers’ Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rights. You’ll find more information about the CBA and Ontario’s Emergency Regulation below the letter.

 

Dear Premier Ford

I am President/Business Agent of Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113, and I write on behalf of my more than 11,500 members employed at the Toronto Transit Commission.

I write in response to the Order in Council passed yesterday evening with respect to transit worker collective bargaining. I am shocked and saddened that your government has taken this action without warning, and I urge you to reconsider.

Your Order in Council – Regulation 157/20 – provides that the City of Toronto can ignore our freely bargained collective agreement and force workers to change jobs, hours of work, strip seniority rights and even contract out work to private contractors and volunteers – all at the whim of the employer, and despite our mutually bargained collective agreement.

We recognize that this is a global crisis, which has reached every community in the Province. Over the past month, just like workers in the health care sector and in grocery stores, it is the members of Local 113 that have risen to the challenge facing our City, and have spent the last month risking their health and the health of their families, doing whatever is necessary to keep Toronto functioning despite this crisis.

Where our employer has sought flexibility in terms of work rules, Local 113 has responsibly shown flexibility where necessary to make sure this happens. There is no need for the Order that you have issued.

The public is not well served by an Order that allows the employer to change any and all rules.  That is one-sided and dangerous, in a democracy or in a workplace. Collective bargaining is constitutionally protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and these rights cannot be suspended where there is no reasonable justification for doing so.

We recognize that the Order applies to a broad variety of workers employed at municipalities across the entire Province of Ontario.   We want you to know that an Order is not required or appropriate in the transit sector. We were not consulted in advance of this dramatic change.   It is our real concern that in acting in haste, an Order was drafted that in its breadth was not intended for transit workers.

So far, we have not seen an attempt to unilaterally interfere with our Collective Agreement.  We will be on guard for any such improper interference.  But it is our primary focus to ask you to reconsider this move.

I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Carlos Santos
President, ATU Local 113

 

Backgrounder: What you need to know about our Collective Bargaining Agreement and Ontario’s Emergency Regulation

ATU Local 113 members should be aware that the Ontario government has issued an emergency Order-in-council (filed as Regulation 157/20) that suspends certain collective agreement rights for TTC and other Ontario municipal transit workers in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

SUMMARY OF KEY PROVISIONS:

The Order authorizes municipalities to take any reasonably necessary measure in respect of work deployment and staffing to reduce the effect of COVID-19 on critical municipal services.

Critical municipal services include public transportation services operated by a municipality.

The measures a municipality may take include but are not limited to the following:

  • Assigning bargaining-unit work to non-bargaining employees, contractors, temporary staff or volunteers
  • Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments
  • Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves
  • Requiring employees to provide information about their likely or actual exposure to COVID-19, or any other health condition that may affect their ability to work

The Order suspends all grievances initiated in response to any matter referred to in the Order. Any challenge to Employer action could only be taken through a court challenge to the Order in Council.

TIMELINE

On March 17, 2020, the Ontario government declared an emergency pursuant to section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 14, 2020, the government extended the declaration of emergency until May 12, 2020.

A declaration of emergency allows the government to make orders that it believes are necessary and essential to prevent, reduce or mitigate serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property.

DETAILS

Application

The Order applies to every municipality in Ontario. It grants municipalities the power to take certain measures in respect of “critical municipal services”.

The Order defines “critical municipal services” to cover a wide range of municipal services which includes “public transportation services operated by a municipality

Effects

The Order authorizes municipalities to take measures with respect to work deployment and staffing of critical municipal services. However, such measures must be reasonably necessary to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19 so as to prevent, reduce or mitigate its effect on critical municipal services.

Within this general grant of power, the Order authorizes municipalities to take a range of specific measures which will supercede any statute, regulation, order, policy, arrangement or agreement, including a collective agreement. This means municipalities may take such measures without complying with a collective agreement, including its lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions.

For example, a municipality may, on 24 hours notice to any unions representing any affected bargaining units, implement a staff redeployment plan that would allow it to:

  • Redeploy staff within different locations in the municipality
  • Change the assignment of work, including hiring or using non-bargaining employees, contractors, temporary staff or volunteers to perform bargaining unit work
  • Change the scheduling of work or shift assignments
  • Defer or cancel vacations, absences, or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences, or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise

In addition, a municipal transit employer may do the following without providing notice to any union:

  • Conduct any skills and experience inventories of staff to identify possible alternative roles in priority areas;
  • Require an employee to provide information about their availability to provide services for the municipality;
  • Require an employee to provide information about their likely or actual exposure to COVID-19, or about any other health conditions that may affect their ability to provide services;
  • Cancel or postpone any service that is not related to responding to, preventing or alleviating the outbreak of COVID-19, or any service that is not deemed critical by a municipality’s emergency plan;
  • Suspend any grievance process with respect to any matter referred to in the Order for the duration of the Order’s operation – though your grievance procedure will otherwise continue to operate.

QUESTIONS

If you have any questions, please speak with your shop steward or ATU Local 113 board member.