Watch above: Labour board halts further pension changes but Saskatoon Transit lockout continues
SASKATOON – The Saskatchewan Labour Board Friday afternoon ordered the City of Saskatoon to halt any further changes to the transit union’s pension plan.
The board also said it would not order an end to the lockout but said the union could reapply in one week for reconsideration.
The general pension plan is a main issue in the dispute between the city and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615 (ATU 615).
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On Monday afternoon, city council unanimously voted to make changes to the city’s bylaw to deal with what they say is a $6.7-million deficit.
The change affected ATU 615 members, who have been without a contract since December 2012, along with eight other unions who agreed to pension changes in their contracts.
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ATU 615 filed an unfair labour practice with the board Monday afternoon following the decision and the lockout Saturday evening of 330 drivers, mechanics and support staff.
At Monday’s hearing, ATU 615 argued the lockout is illegal as there was a pending application before the board on another matter.
Gary Bainbridge, the lawyer representing the union, said the city should have known better before issuing the lockout notice, stating it is well-known there is a non-lockout clause while an application is pending.
Patricia Warwick, who represented the city, said the lockout does not put the pending application in jeopardy as it has nothing to do with the lockout.
Bainbridge said the fact the pending application has nothing to do with the lockout doesn’t matter, it is the principle of obeying labour law.
Warwick stated if the lockout ends, the city will be vulnerable.
“Lifting the lockout will further delay a collective agreement,” said Warwick, who went on to state the union would have the upper hand and could strike at any time.
Union members voted in favour of strike action this past spring but have taken no action to date.
No new talks are scheduled and Warwick told the hearing the city needs assistance from the labour relations board to break the stalemate with the union.
The parties also argued on the timing of the labour complaint, with the city saying the union had no sense of urgency in challenging the legality of the lockout until Monday afternoon.
ATU 615 called it a red herring, with Bainbridge stating if the city knew the lockout was illegal, why go ahead with it.
The key issues in the dispute, that has left thousands scrambling to make alternative travel arrangements, are wages and the pension plan.
After the labour board decision on Friday the city invited the union back to the bargaining table. The union has yet to respond.
No relief from province
On another front, the premier said the province will not intervene in the transit dispute.
Premier Brad Wall said it is up to the two sides to resolve the issues and while the province has essential services legislation, it’s up to the city to ask to have transit declared essential, which it has not done.