Another year, another bus strike

I knew it was a possibility. I specifically didn’t buy a bus pass this month because of that. But since I’m between contracts at the moment, I didn’t realize that it had become a reality until I went down to get my mail on Wednesday and saw all the “Carpool wanted” notices on the bulletin board. Even then, I didn’t realize the strike had already started. I thought it was all just in anticipation of a future strike.

OCTranspo strike page

The OC Transpo Web site currently just displays information about the strike.

Usually I have some sympathy for workers who are on strike, but I have very little for the bus drivers in this case. In a spread-out city like this, too many people rely on bus travel for it to be considered anything but an essential service, despite city council voting on Wednesday that it isn’t. And the Amalgamated Transit Union likes to threaten or call strikes in November/December, essentially holding commuters and retailers (who are losing lucrative Christmas sales) hostage in an attempt to put pressure on the city negotiators.

I have very little respect and no support whatsoever for the strikers. OC Transpo bus drivers are well paid — better paid than many people in this city — and you don’t become a bus driver without realizing that you’re going to work some crappy shifts. It’s like working as a computer operator — since data centres run 24/7, you know you’re going to be working shift work. Don’t start complaining about it. Most people don’t get annual wage increases at all, let alone the kind that the bus drivers want.

Kind of glad I’m not working on a contract right now. During the month-long strike back in 1996, I had to walk an hour each way to and from my workplace — it was a cold and blizzardy November/December that year, a bit like the weather we’ve been getting in the last week. I had a cassette Walkman at the time so I had some mix tapes and ABBA to keep me company, and I lost weight, but I also almost got hit by sliding cars several times and I developed asthma during that period. From the National Post:

The last Ottawa transit strike was in 1996. It began in late November and lasted 24 days. Buses were back on the road on Dec. 19 that year. The strike ended when both sides agreed to an arbitrator’s proposal that allowed OC Transpo to roll back benefits worth about $1.25 million. The city had been seeking cuts of $2 million.

Some costs of that strike were easy to quantify. Each striker lost about $2,500 in wages, and the Ottawa-Carleton Board of Trade estimated that the cost to businesses was about $1 million a day in lower productivity and lost sales during the Christmas season.

The CBC article linked to earlier in this post mentions one poor guy who had to walk 4+ hours to get to work. For some people, their only options are walk crazy distances or not get paid. It’s insane.

Some additional related articles from today:


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