By Вen Li
Students may have to make alternate plans to get to school once reading week is over. Calgary Transit operators voted 83.9 per cent in favour of a strike, which could begin as early as Thurs., Feb. 22.
"There was an awesome turnout. 86 per cent of our membership showed up to vote," said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583 President Dean Mckdrness. "They spoke loud and clear. The city better be serious about negotiating a collective agreement."
Students’ Union Vice-president External Duncan Wojtaszek is worried students will be trapped at home. "We’re concerned about whether or not students will be able to get to their classes," said Wojtaszek. "We certainly encourage profs to be understanding during a transit strike."
Wojtaszek warns of parking space shortages on campus if the strike occurs, noting that thousands of students currently rely on Calgary Transit. Both the SU and the City of Calgary government suggest carpooling and planning for delays.
"Commuters are going to have to find alternate forms of transportation and should be prepared for increased travel times," said City of Calgary spokesperson Vickie Megrath.
The City may temporarily lift parking restrictions to ease commuter access to the downtown core if the strike occurs. However, the City is optimistic they’ll reach an agreement before the Feb. 22 strike date.
"We’ve always maintained that we want to reach a negotiated settlement with the ATU," said Megrath. "We are committed to working with the mutually agreed [unofficial arbitrator]."
"I expect that there will be a resolution before the 22nd if the City is serious about getting a collective agreement," said Mckdrness.
Their current collective agreement states if a driver works the day before and the day after a statutory holiday–such as Family Day–they get paid for it. So the Feb. 22 date for the strike was a monetary decision for the union and its members, according to ATU Local 583 Executive VP Doug Johannes.
The strike vote followed weeks of work adherence by operators and is the latest in a series of manoeuvres from both sides. Major issues include work conditions, wages and benefits, and the City’s ability to reallocate work to non-union employees.
"We have broken off with mediation. We have talked to our members who gave us a directive to have a strike vote on Mon., Feb. 12," said Johannes. "[Members] are angry at the fact that we had to have a strike vote before we got any kind of cooperation from the city. They are angry with the games the City of Calgary is playing."