Bus Strike Update

The 39 day old bus strike in Ottawa is still going strong. The two sides are negotiating now, which is progress, but there are still a couple of key issues that they just can't find common ground on.

A major one is scheduling, and today's Ottawa Citizen has a pretty good overview of exactly what the issues are. And, to me, they seem minor. Certainly not cripple-the-city-for-39-days-so-far scale differences. I don't understand why the two sides can't find a resolution; it seems more about egos than issues.

There's a table in the paper comparing the deals that the cities of Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver have with their transit unions.

The table isn't clear on how much drivers make in one city compared to the other; it notes that the average wage in Ottawa is $24/hour, but gives ranges for the other cities. If the average is in the middle of the range, then the salaries are comparable.

Ottawa guarantees fewer hours than the other cities, and the city's proposal involves changing that. That seems like a reasonable change.

On scheduling, it seems the only major differences is regarding shift work. If a shift is split, current practice is for the spread between when the first shift starts and the last shift ends is 12 hours; the city wants to extend that to 14 hours. The city says that in practice that happens already, but the union doesn't want the city to be able to force drivers to have a 14 hour spread.

Okay, so that's a reasonable complaint. But if that particular issue is the fundamental disagreement, how much money is that particular issue costing the city? I'd like to see an estimate of that. Maybe it's worth caving on that to end the strike, if the money to be saved isn't significant, or can be made up somewhere else in the agreement.