Saturday, April 26, 2008

Solidarity forever

So the TTC is on strike. It's going to last all of 48 hours, because the Province is already on its way to legislating them back to work. And when it's all over, the Province will probably legislate that the TTC is an essential service (which is fucking stupid, but we're a city of whiny babies.)

Why stupid? Because as an essential service, the TTC will get the kind of treatment around negotiations that the police and ambulance services do -- basically, open wallets, help themselves. But if we wanted to keep the TTC from going on strike, we could just pay them more in the first place. To put it another way, the TTC is an essential service whether we legislate that or not. So we should treat it that way, whether they legislate it or not. And I'm not just talking about the workers -- we should be looking at way more expansions to the service than we currently are.

Except that this strike isn't actually about money. The drivers were promised lots of money and then some, to bring them up to the levels of pay for the rest of the GTA. The strike is about the possibility of non-union workers being brought in to replace non-driver staff. But, if it was just the auxiliary workers voting against the deal it still would have passed. Instead, it seems a mathematical certainty that the drivers voted to reject it out of solidarity with their maintenance brothers.

So get this: the union is doing exactly what a union -- any union -- is supposed to do. Nonetheless, we're all going to spend the weekend bitching and moaning because people in Toronto believe they have a sacred right never to be inconvenienced by anything.

As for the whole "no 48 hours notice thing", I agree that's a bit of asshole-ery, but seeing as TTC workers were already getting violent threats before the last dealine, I totally understand the desire to clear the fuck out.

POSTSCRIPT: Transit is expensive. Unless we tear up the roads and start from scratch with something new, it's always going to be expensive. That's why it's a public service all over North America -- because it didn't used to be. Time was mass transit was run by business in most places (buses and streetcars.) The economics of transport changed after WWII, and most transit companies went under, except where they were subsumed by the state.

Look at the airlines -- the most subsidized creatures in all of history short of the nuclear industry, they probably haven't made a net profit in their history, once you subtract government handounts and bailouts. Moving stuff and people is a really lousy business, and you have to pay for it. Since we can't move urban populations by barge or containership, that means we pay even more.


celestialspeedster said...

It is true that union Leader Bob Kinnear refused to grant a 48 hour notice prior to striking due to "increases in threats and abuse from passengers last weekend, after (they) gave (their) original 48-hours' notice."

However, I would argue that Bob's petty move to cut service at midnight with announcements made to pasengers at 11:30pm, put union members in danger.

As reported in The Star:
Some TTC workers, on the job last night, expressed concern about their safety when asking people to leave the station, evident by the announcement heard at many stations: “If you’re having difficulty closing your station, let us know."

The union could have made their point by making the strike announcement at 11:30pm then closing at 2am, as expected.

Unfortunately, TTC workers, some of whom actually thought Bob Kinnear's move was out of line, will bear the brunt of the ill will to come from bitter passengers who felt the rug was pulled from under them.

Flocons said...

I've always been in favour of declaring the TTC an essential service. The difference is that the next time they whine about money, the public doesn't have to hear it and it doesn't have to be front page news.

Let's be clear here: The whiny babies are the people who are on strike, because they insist on being paid more than their worth.

Why should transit riders be ridiculed for complaining about job action that is specifically designed to deliberately inconvenience transit riders?

You don't seriously expect transit riders to cheer on ATU 113 for their "noble selfless display of solidarity" do you?

Jon Dursi said...

Agree with celestial speedster; not giving 48 hours notice is one thing, giving ~1 hour notice in the middle of a Friday night is another matter entirely.

As to your other points, the TTC is an essential service if anything is. Having nurses and cops not be allowed to strike doesn't matter much if they can't actually get to their jobs.

And if the TTC workers end up being paid more in the long run as a result of being declared an essential service, why is that irrational? TTC riders and, to a lesser extent, taxpayers, would be paying more for the reduction of uncertainty that this would entail; that's hardly a crazy outcome.

john said...

"The difference is that the next time they whine about money, the public doesn't have to hear it and it doesn't have to be front page news."

I really don't understand this. They should lose a basic labour right because you don't want to hear about it?

"Why should transit riders be ridiculed for complaining about job action that is specifically designed to deliberately inconvenience transit riders?"

Complain, absolutely. I'm ridiculing ("whiny babies") the idea of making the TTC an essential service, not the complaints. I don't expect people to take this with a smile, but at least understand the price of doing business: you want good public transit (and live anywhere else in this country except maybe Montreal, and you'll understand how good Toronto has it) you have to pay for it. And if you don't want to pay for it, don't complain when people walk off the job.

Flocons said...

I am not saying that that the sole reason to declare TTC an essential service is that I don't have to hear about it. It is only one benefit. Declaring the TTC an essential service is only a true reflection of the nature of their service. I complain about the quality of TTC service, but the nature of their service is an essential one. I reluctantly accept that this means TTC workers get paid more, but the reality is that they will inevitably get paid more through strike action as well. This is merely the most painless non-invasive method of avoiding this from happening again.

In terms of Toronto having good public transit, I've been to European cities with mythically perfect public transit. We should be looked to them as models, not transit systems that are worse than Toronto. Now I can't comment on how those European transit systems are run (and I suspect you will explain that they are run on buckets and buckets of money) but I noted that those good systems are efficient, automated and streamlined in terms of costs. I really would like the TTC to approach the level where they can offer our city that level of service... Sadly though, I don't see it happening with the current union in place, and even if we threw a trillion dollars into the TTC, it would get us to where we want to be, because of union politics.

That guy said...

the nature of their service is an essential one


Flocons said...


I work in a hospital, so the most obvious explanation of why TTC is an essential service:

- Nursing and medical services are essential services.
- Lack of TTC prevents nurses and medical service providers from getting to work.

You sit and think about that for a bit.

Anonymous said...

I take offence to you calling transit riders "whiny babies". The people who you say are merely "inconvenienced" are usually the most vulnerable members of society. Those who take TTC on the weekend are usually people who cannot afford a car. When you are coming from Jane and Finch to a minimum wage job in a Tim Horton's in the downtown core, you will not want to pay a $50 cab fare. That is not just a matter of inconvenience. It's either making nothing for the day or lose your job.

That guy said...

Lack of TTC prevents nurses and medical service providers from getting to work.

All of them? Some of them? Most of them? For how long?

Flocons said...


Many hospital workers are not as privileged as TTC workers, in that they do not make buckets of money. Many of them do not have cars, and DO rely on public transit. As for the consequences of these individuals not being able to get to work for a few days, you cannot simply take a "life goes on" attitude, because there is the possibility that it may not.