Read the Toronto Star’s Transportation reporter Ben Spurr’s article TTC blocked from contracting out transit operations as arbitrator ends contract dispute.

A provincial arbitrator has awarded the TTC’s largest union a new three-year contract in a decision that blocked the transit agency from stripping job-security protections from the collective agreement.

On several key issues, arbitrator William Kaplan’s Oct. 23 decision sided with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents about 11,000 TTC transit operators, fare collectors and maintenance workers. The award ends a seven-month stalemate between the two sides — the previous collective agreement expired March 31.

“Toronto’s hardworking public transit workers are pleased with the new collective agreement, which recognizes our vital role in the communities we serve through fair wages and benefits,” said Local 113 president Frank Grimaldi in a statement.

The TTC had sought to remove language from the agreement that prohibited contracting out transit service. It also wanted to secure permission to introduce a part-time workforce, and to eliminate a requirement that it pay a 25 per cent per hour premium to employees who work on Sundays.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said the agency has no plans for a large-scale contracting out of transit service. But it had been contemplating enlisting York Region Transit to operate the Dufferin North bus route, and using non-TTC drivers as part of a “micro-transit” pilot project that would engage private for-hire vehicles to supplement regular transit service.

“It’s language that we felt doesn’t give us as management the flexibility to do things we might want to do in the future,” he said of the contracting out prohibition.

Ross called Sunday premium pay an “antiquated concept,” and argued introducing part-time work would “improve scheduling efficiency” and increase the pool of employees available to the TTC during peak service periods and special events.

Kaplan dismissed those proposals however, writing in his decision that there was no demonstrated need for such a “drastic change” to the terms of the collective agreement.

The arbitration award will give Local 113 members an across-the-board wage increase of 6 per cent over three years, which is more than the 5 per cent increase over four years that unions representing City of Toronto inside and outside workers won in 2016.

According to Ross, the TTC is still calculating how much the award will cost the agency.

In 2011, at the request of city council, the provincial government declared the TTC an essential service, effectively stripping the union of the right to strike.

The dispute over a new contract ended up in interest arbitration this month after the union and TTC failed to reach an agreement through collective bargaining and mediation.

While Grimaldi said the union was happy with the award, he asserted that arbitration “is no substitute for the fundamental Charter right to free collective bargaining which has been denied to ATU Local 113 through the removal of the right to strike by previous governments.”

Local 113 has been campaigning against the Ontario PC government’s plan to take ownership of the subway system, warning that it believes Premier Doug Ford aims to privatize transit service. The government has denied those claims, and says the TTC would continue to operate the lines.

Grimaldi said the union expects the provisions of the award will prevent contracting out services “irrespective of whether the subway is sold or otherwise transferred to another entity, including the province.”