Federal Government wading in on Ottawa 50-day Transpo strike

Post by Michael Collins in

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Walking in Ottawa, CBC photoToday, after hitting the fifty day mark of the Ottawa bus strike (OC Transpo) which has plagued this G8 capital since well prior to Christmas, the federal Labour Minister Rona Ambrose announced this afternoon that she is prepared to introduce back-to-work legislation in the House of Commons to bring this unfortunate saga to a merciful close. One might argue a good thing too, given that the latest round of "talks"  between the city and union came to crashing halt again this past week.

Initial, anecdotal reaction is somewhat predictable: groans from the union, muted reaction from municipal officials, and a sense of initial "relief" from citizens that someone is actually prepared to invoke closure on this sad, risible affair.  On a day when Ottawa is enduring a good mid-winter snowstorm further exacerbating the length of daily commutes, the underlying feeling across the city seems to be one of take any measure necessary to end this strike.

As I wrote previously, most folks in Ottawa believe that both sides have their fair share of burden of blame to carry here. The city continues to seemingly come up with new offers which are tired variations on a theme which has been rejected by the union a few times over and now is spending more time not on strike resolution but on ways to avert future ballet box punishment such as delaying municipal tax collection (for those who pay quarterly) by a month to "ease the hardship" of the strike

The union, equally, continues to show seemingly limited to no flexibilty in its bargaining position led by André Cornellier who comes across as a throwback to Jean-Claude Parrot, the former union head at Canada Post when public service strikes were truly in vogue in the late-seventies and early-eighties.

Now, there are apparently two options: all federal parties agree to legislate workers back to work on a unanimous basis which would result in swift action and lead to binding arbitration, or less than all federal party agreement which would mean legislation could still be passed but over a timespan of weeks not days. With freezing, frustration, and fatigue in mind in Ottawa, let's hope it is the former along with binding arbitration.

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It seems the federal government will step in to put an end to this dispute; something the Ottawa city council was incapable of doing. It's about time. This sort of spinelessness will be remembered by voters at the next civic election.

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