Thursday 01 May 2008

Should Public Transit Be An Essential City Service?

Last month, the Amalgamated Transit Union of the Toronto Transit Commission staged a rapid strike after its union workers failed to ratify a tentative deal that was negotiated in good faith between representatives of the Union and the Commission. The strike effectively halted the entire public transit system for the city of Toronto (where I live in Canada) and left many in the public stranded suddenly without any transportation. The news brought on an immediate denouncement by the Mayor, who criticized the Union for failing to give due notification to the city which it had promised previously before striking. In response, the Union cited concern over the safety of its workers from possible public retaliation for its last-minute decision (I found it strange that the Union would had not anticipated this before) to proceed with the unannounced job action. While such concern was undoubtedly valid, it also ignored the equally important concern of the larger public who had no choice but to rely on public transportation to travel safely around the city, particularly at night. The controversial strike ended only when the Province of Ontario passed back-to-work legislation that effectively restored public transportation to the city.

Understandably, this fiasco had angered much of the public and reinvigorated the debate on whether or not Public Transit should be deemed as an essential service, similar to the Police and the Firefighters, for the city. As both a user and a believer of public transportation, I fully support such a consideration if a fair compensation can be ensured to all parties who participate in the change; to do so otherwise ignores the balanced responsibility that our government has to all the people who use the system and all the workers who work hard to maintain it.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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