Hamilton Transit Strike Commences as Workers Seek Fair Wages Amid Stalled Talks

View image in full screen Transit workers begin picketing outside the HSR Mountain transit center on Upper James Nov. 9. 2022, after failing to reach a deal with city negotiators before the deadline of one minute past midnight.

Hamilton residents are waking up to a city without bus services as transit workers, represented by ATU Local 107, have commenced their strike action. The strike began early Thursday morning after negotiations between the city and the union, which represents nearly 900 workers, reached a deadlock over wage increases.

The union has rejected the city’s “final offer,” made earlier this week, with members voting overwhelmingly against it by 94 percent. The heart of the dispute lies in the workers’ demand for wages that keep pace with rising inflation. ATU Local 107 described the proposed 3.2 percent wage increase as insufficient, especially when compared to the double-digit wage increases that non-union staff received and higher wages at nearby transit agencies.

In a show of solidarity and to voice their demands, striking workers are scheduled to hold a news conference and rally at the Frank A Cooke bus terminal in downtown Hamilton. Despite the work stoppage, services offered by DARTS for residents with disabilities will continue to operate.

Mayor Andrea Horwath expressed her disappointment with the strike, emphasizing the hardships it brings to both residents and workers during these challenging times. “This is such a hard time for so many people, and I know the disruption of transit services will add more stress,” Horwath stated, reiterating her faith in the collective bargaining process and urging both sides to work towards a resolution.

According to the City of Hamilton, the offer on the table would position the city’s transit workers among the top-paid in Ontario, ranking third behind Mississauga and Brampton. The city has labeled the union’s wage demands as unsustainable for taxpayers and potentially disruptive to the labor relations environment.

Eric Tuck, president of ATU Local 107, has stated that the union’s negotiating team is ready to resume talks if the city adjusts its stance. “When the city is ready to make a move, we’re here ready to sit down and have those talks, but it takes two to bargain,” Tuck said.

As the city braces for the impact of the strike, Acting city manager Carlyle Khan suggested that residents consider alternative transportation methods, such as carpooling, ride-sharing, or using the city’s Smart Commute website. Khan remains hopeful for a resolution, saying, “I think that if they work together … be creative and look for solutions … keeping in mind (it’s) the customers that are impacted, they will have a positive outcome.”

The strike has brought to the forefront the complexities of labor negotiations in a time of economic uncertainty. As the city and its transit workers navigate these turbulent waters, the community watches and waits, hoping for a swift and fair resolution.

For now, the streets of Hamilton will be devoid of the familiar sight of buses, as the city, known for its labor roots, witnesses one of the most significant transit strikes in recent history, with no clear end in sight.