Edmonton—As Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna took turns re-announcing funding that already existed and touting ‘good union jobs’ on an Edmonton Transit platform, transit workers took over the stage with a banner of the heads of over 1500 transit workers in the ATU with the emblazoned words: “STOP CONTRACTING OUT OUR WORK” on a 4×12 foot banner.
Mayor Iveson is the sole person responsible for ruling a motion out of order that would have kept over 100 bus cleaner jobs in house. The banner was a stark reminder that Mayor Iveson’s actions do not reflect his words. The banner is also a reminder that this funding is for equipment and capital and not for operational budgets that employ operators and maintenance staff. The federal funding announcement today shows the two worlds of Public Transit Infrastructure Funding and the new permanent Public Transit Fund: mass firings for workers, but podiums for politicians.
The press conference, the Mayor came up to the workers who asked him if they could use the money to keep cleaner jobs in house and the Mayor remarked: “this money is for equipment and capital.”
ATU local 569 is determined to win the bus cleaner fight. They launched an unfair labour practice against City management for releasing an RFP in the middle of union contract negotiations where job security is emerging as the main issue on the table.
The local union has held rallies, done majority petitions, and mobilized over 1000 e-mails and 300 phone calls to Mayor and Council on the bus cleaner RFP. When a motion brought forward by councilor Aaron Pacquette to keep the work in-house seemed to have enough votes to pass, the Mayor ruled it out of order and City management went into an in-camera meeting for 45 minutes.
The fighting local of Edmonton transit workers is also pushing to the hilt politically. Leading Mayoral candidate Amarjeet Sohi has pledged to work with council to bring the jobs back in-house. Sohi was a executive board member of ATU local 569 who was a lead organizer in unionizing the Disabled Adult Transit Service in Edmonton.