Gatineau rolls closer to transit strike

Union cries foul after reps disciplined

Gatineau buses could soon grind to a halt amid growing antagonism between the Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) and its union.

By Dylan C. Robertson

“The negotiations are not going well,” union head Félix Gendron told Metro. “We are moving closer to a strike.”

The union representing bus drivers suspended contract talks last Friday, after the STO imposed disciplinary measures on Gendron and three other union executives.

"They suspended me for doing my job,” claims Gendron, who faced four unpaid days over the holiday period for insubordination due to "derogatory remarks.” He said it’s his first discipline in 26 years as an STO employee.

Gendron was also barred from entering STO premises, which he disobeyed in order to continue his union work. That prompted another sanction, likely an unpaid day of work. “It’s pretty weird,” he said.

In a statement last Friday, STO said it’s bargaining in good faith: “Unlike the union's claim, the disciplinary measures imposed on certain employees have no connection with the ongoing negotiations.”

The union has been without a contract since December 2014. Last month, transit workers voted 98 percent in favour of striking, which would give the union 60 days to strike if it gives three days’ notice.

Meanwhile, both sides are waiting to see whether the federal government deems Gatineau buses an essential service, which would make any strike action illegal. The Canada Industrial Relations Board is expected to render its decision by late January, and has a meeting with both sides Monday.

The STO has asked the union to return to the bargaining table, with mediator talks already scheduled through to February, including this Friday.

This story originally appeared in Metro News.