Ha! Missed me!

Originally published 29 May 2006.

Did we all have fun yesterday [May 29, 2006]?  Everyone give a big, hearty round of applause to the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113—especially local president Bob Kinnear.  Bob and his local just pissed off 750,000 Torontonians with an illegal transit strike, and conclusively demonstrated that taking the car is far more reliable and comfortable than being environmentally friendly and riding public transit.

What is really entertaining about the whole thing is that the ATU likes to position itself as a greenish organisation, while throwing their hands up and denying all responsibility for union-member job actions that completely undermine the message.

    “This campaign, with the leadership of the Amalgamated Transit Union, aims to make employer provided transit passes tax-exempt. Under the Kyoto Protocol (1997), Canada is committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Transportation is the largest, single source of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions. Exemption of employer provided transit passes from taxation is expected to result in a shift to mass transit of 5%. This will reduce or slow the growth of emissions by about 2% and result in more service sector jobs.”

Green Job Creation“, Canadian Labour Congress (website).

This transit pass policy scheme, spearheaded by the ATU, was expected to encourage 5% more people to take the bus.  What percentage of people get discouraged from using public transit once they realise their daily commute is at the mercy of utterly unserious blowhards like Commissioner Howard Moscoe and local 113 president Bob Kinnear?  Well no matter, I’m sure the earth-mother Gaia consciousness will forgive you; after all, it’s the thought—rather than say, concrete action — that counts.

It gets better than that, though.  While union reps on radio and TV ostensibly painted the strike issue as one of driver safety, they actually hinted at the real cause to media outlets (like the Toronto Star) five days ago.  Oops.

    This is the latest skirmish between the TTC and its union, which have battled over security issues, health benefits, job evaluation and, most recently, the reassignment to more night shifts for janitors. The union had threatened an illegal strike over the new maintenance staff schedule, which kicks in Sunday.

Kevin McGran & Vanessa Lu, “TTC won’t fight fares
Toronto Star, 25 May 2006.

So in the minds of Local 113, 57-odd maintenance workers getting shuffled from daytime to nighttime justifies 750,000 people being inconvenienced.  I am not so sure the punishment fits the crime, but then I don’t have a career of arduous and backbreaking night-time janitorial duties stretching infinitely into my future.  Maybe someone could invent an industrial-strength Roomba / Scooba for TTC use so that no human janitor ever has to sweep platforms or scrub bathroom floors in the dark and scary watches of the night.

In my case a transit strike simply means working from home; at the Firm, something like 75% of the workforce uses laptops and mobile computing devices.  Of the seven people in my team, two were on vacation, two took the GO Train (and subsequently did arrive at the office), and the remaining three worked from home.  We could still communicate via phone, e-mail and corporate instant messaging service.  I understand even the front-line grunts on national help desk are issued with laptops and the ability to route calls to their homes.  So from the Firm’s perspective, yesterday was like any other day.  Tasks delayed: none.  Projects delayed: none.  Deadlines missed: none.  Industry humming along as usual, in other words.

Congratulations, Bob Kinnear and Local 113.  Keep on fighting 21st century commerce with 19th-century tactics; while you were out on picket lines, I was in air-conditioned comfort at home.  I managed to stay on top of my workload and will be rebated a day’s Metropass costs, to boot.  Your 800 maintenance workers will get docked a day’s pay and be a day behind on their duties.  You know who you hurt with this wildcat strike?  Students and seniors, for starters.  The poor, who can’t afford 30-buck cab fares downtown.  And others whose living depends on mass agglomeration of commuters downtown—people working in coffee shops, hot dog stands, food court outlets—not to mention all those businesses retailing inside subway stations.  You know, ordinary working-class joes.  Way to stick it to the Man.

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