Windsor's buses will continue running — for now, says the union representing Transit Windsor employees.
Leadership of the Amalgamated Transit Union held a news conference at the downtown bus terminal on Tuesday to announce that bargaining with the city will resume on Friday.
"We are here to negotiate a fair deal for our members," said Manny Sforza, international vice-president of the ATU.
"We are here today at the transit terminal because our members are a priority, and the travelling public are a priority."
However, the union provided a reminder that, at any time, its members can call for a strike and give 72 hours' notice before shut down of services.
Passengers prepare to board a Transit Windsor bus at the downtown Windsor terminal. (Chris Ensing/CBC)
"We continue to evaluate our strike position. Hour by hour, day by day," Sforza advised. "We don't want to go on strike. We don't want to inconvenience the public. But our priority is to get a fair deal for our members."
John Di Nino, president of ATU Canada, said the union is conscious of how the public depends on buses "And our members are proud to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable transit."
If a strike is necessary, Di Nino, that will be "on the backs" of the City of Windsor — not the union. "(Management) has got an opportunity to make this work, give workers a fair contract. And we're hopeful this is where this is going to end up."
Mark Winterton, the City of Windsor's commissioner of infrastructure services, said in a statement that "Negotiators leading the contract talks with (ATU) Local 616 remain committed to working toward achieving an agreement that balances what the workers want, what riders need, and what taxpayers can afford."
"All of these factors are being taken into consideration at the bargaining table and we remain hopeful that the negotiating teams can find their way to a fair deal."
Riders of Transit Windsor's Dominion bus line up at the downtown Windsor terminal. (Chris Ensing/CBC)
But Sforza accused Transit Windsor management of "bad faith bargaining," saying their side of the negotiations wasn't ready to deal over the weekend.
A sticking point in the contract talks has been 10 federally mandated sick days.
"It is clear in the act that the employer is to bear the cost of these sick days. It is the city's position, and Transit Windsor's position, that our members should be paying for these sick days out of the wage package we are bargaining at the table. That is outrageous," Sforza said.
Sforza added that ATU is ready to file a complaint with the federal labour relations board, if necessary.
Riders line up for a Transit Windsor bus. (Chris Ensing/CBC)
ATU is also seeking a wage increase in the range of 3.5 per cent to four per cent — which the union argues is comparable to the pay in other municipal bus services in Canadian cities, such as London, Hamilton and Peterborough.
"We don't believe we are being unreasonable," Sforza said. "I hope (Transit Windsor) come better prepared (to deal) this time. We're prepared. If they come prepared, I'm optimistic we can reach a deal this weekend."
ATU represents almost 300 Transit Windsor employees, including bus operators, mechanics and skilled tradespeople.
Sforza pointed out that Transit Windsor ridership has been increasing in recent years. "The buses are crowded. Our members are telling us that they can't get everybody on the buses. I think the city needs to recognize that."
"Let's work together. Let's keep everything moving. And let's get a fair deal."