‘Ottawa’ STO Bus Drivers, Maintenance Staff to Start Rotating Strike Thursday
Bus riders in the Outaouais are being urged to make alternative travel arrangements for Thursday as the STO service braces for rotating strikes by drivers and maintenance employees.
Word of the planned labour action emerged Wednesday after an apparently failed mediation session.
The STO told the Citizen the Gatineau transit commission itself has not been notified of how the strike will roll out and that is had only learned of the union’s plan through media reports. It encouraged commuters to check the STO.ca website for updates on the labour action.
Amid published reports of possible rolling one-day strikes soon, “nothing has been confirmed officially by the union to the STO about the possibility of rotating strikes,” said Céline Gauthier, a spokeswoman for the Société de transport de l’Outaouais.
The two sides have been at loggerheads for weeks over issues including wages, sick leave and scheduling.
The union had earlier said it would call one-day strikes, once a week until April.
The labour board rejected the Société de transport de l’Outaouais’s motion to deem any action an unlawful strike. The STO had asked for 72-hour notice to inform customers of any delays or changes to service.
Things had appeared hopeful earlier Wednesday when the transit commission said it hadn’t received any formal indication that rotating strikes could begin. The commission had said the next step was Wednesday afternoon’s mediation. Despite attempts at mediation, word of the strike came early Wednesday evening.
The employer accused the union of taking users hostage and apologized for any inconvenience the rotating strike will cause.
In January, the union members began protests including reporting any vehicle defect, even minor ones, so buses are taken off the road. Drivers also took to wearing jeans, refusing to work overtime or special events, such as Winterlude.
The STO responded by sending drivers home if a working bus wasn’t available.
with files from Tom Spear