Transit is essential, says student policy

Photo Samantha Phillips
Photo Samantha Phillips

Feds student council has voted to pass a motion to prevent threats of transit strikes. The new policy calls for the VP education to lobby at the provincial level, in order to pressure the government into making Grand River Transit (GRT) an essential service. In being labeled essential, GRT workers would be unable to go on strike.

“Sarah Wiley wrote this policy and sent it to council. The policy was supposed to be passed in the last council meeting, but we didn’t meet quorum,” said Antonio Brieva, the current government affairs commissioner and president-elect. “[The policy] was pushed onto the agenda of [the meeting on April 2].”

The policy was written in response to the first threat to strike March 20. Since then, additional threats to strike April 3 and April 5 have been made, though following negotiations on April 3, an agreement was reached.

At the time of publishing, no strike is currently planned.

The policy also touched upon “working with the university administration to be academically lenient or provide academic accommodations to students most affected by service disruption in the area,” according to Brieva.

Brieva admitted that any policies related to making GRT an essential service “probably won’t pass in the near future, it will probably take at least a year.”

“We just wanted to ensure it would be reflected in [Feds’] policies,” Brieva said. “[The] more immediate impact would be in the event of any service disruption, academic accommodations [would be provided]. But that all depend on the university and our advocacy efforts, for them to accommodate the students that are affected.”

Last week, Tim Mitchell, Unifor national representative for the GRT, spoke to Imprint.

“We understand that people rely on the transit, there is really no interest in having a strike and no one wins in a strike and we understand it impacts people,” Mitchell said. “However, there are significant issues the region needs to address. We have the right to withdraw services — that really is the only tool we have to implement change. If that tool is removed from us we’re really left to beg and hope, and people don’t join unions to beg and hope. They join for real change.”

“Feds respects the right of workers for arbitration. We want to make clear it’s not something against labor unions,” Brieva said. “We think it’s an essential service for students and is detrimental for students to not have this service for prolonged period of time.”

According to Brieva, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance passed a paper during its last general assembly which recommends all intraregional transit services to be considered an essential service in cities and regions with post-secondary institutions.


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