Waterloo students face first day of GRT bus strike

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Photo by: Claudia Tavara-Tello

Region of Waterloo residents and students are once again making back up transportation plans as GRT bus service went on strike on Tuesday at 5 a.m.

Details of the tentative agreement were to be approved by the workers at a meeting on Sunday night, however, members of the union voted not in favour of the agreement, resuming the plans for the strike.

Both sides of the table have been in negotiation since October 2019 and were only able to come to a tentative agreement less than three hours before last week’s strike deadline.

The strike is back on after Sunday’s meeting of Unifor Local 4304 voted down the tentative agreement reached earlier in the week.

Unifor 4304 is the union that represents GRT dispatchers, drivers, mechanics, and vehicle service attendants.

As many as 700 GRT and MobilityPLUS workers are prepared to take strike action on Tuesday morning, leading to the suspension of service of all buses and backup shuttles.

The ION LRT will continue to run but is may face disruptions.

Thousands of individuals rely on the GRT each day.

The strike is expected to impact all students at all campuses within the region with emails being sent out to professors to inform them that students may not have a means of transportation.

Individuals are asked to consider other means of transportation such as cycling, walking, carpooling and taxis.

The following statement was released by the Region of Waterloo in regard to the last minute change of plans:

“The Region is disappointed that Unifor 4304 members failed to ratify the tentative collective agreement negotiated by their bargaining team.The bargaining teams from the Union and the Region met for 11 days of bargaining since October. All bargaining was conducted in good faith. The Union and the Region’s bargaining teams reached a
tentative settlement on January 13. The tentative settlement was recommended to the members by the Union’s bargaining team. The members rejected this settlement in a ratification vote on January 19 and have indicated that strike action will begin on Tuesday, January 21. At this time, the Region is unaware of the reasons the Union members failed to ratify the tentative agreement. The Region remains available to discuss next steps with the Union.”

In respect to Sunday’s vote, Local 4304 President Tim Jewell stated, “the membership has made a very strong statement today that GRT must do better at the bargaining table.”

Unifor and GRT have once again agreed to continue negotiating throughout the strike in hopes of getting the GRT bus system back on the road as soon as possible.

The union’s top priorities for the talks are fair discipline, safety, the use of cameras on the busesand fair compensation.

A variety of issues including economic issues were addressed such as the demand for wage increases that are consistent with the rate of inflation. “The drivers, mechanics, and all workers at Grand River Transit work hard to ensure that the people of Waterloo can get
around the community safely, and for that, they deserve to know they will be treated fairly and be safe on the job,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

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