Skip to content

NEWS: Transit strike against Veolia in York Region, Feb. 22

The Toronto Star reports that, “Vaughan (located just north of Toronto) commuters are being warned to brace for a transit strike after talks broke down Friday between the union representing some York Region Transit workers and their employer, Veolia Transportation. …The strike will affect 24 bus routes operating primarily in Vaughan, and some routes in the towns of Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Aurora and Markham and the Township of King. …Wages, shift premiums and health benefits remain sticking points with the workers, (Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 President Bob) Kinnear said.”

The Canadian Press adds that, “About 214 unionized Veolia operators and mechanics and 131 York Region Transit vehicles provide service to nearly 28,000 daily weekday riders on the affected routes.”

What are the issues? In the ATU Local 113 media release, “The union points out that Veolia charges York Region passengers the highest fares in the Greater Toronto Region and receives higher public subsidies – well over $4.00 per ride, on top of the $3.25 fare – than any other GTA transit service. ‘Despite charging passengers and taxpayers a total of nearly $7.50 per ride, they pay their employees the lowest wages in the GTA,’ (says Kinnear) …The starting wage of a Veolia bus operator is currently $16.55. It takes five years to reach the top rate of $22.00 per hour, nearly 30 per cent less than paid to Brampton, Toronto and Mississauga transit workers doing the same jobs. Wages, however, are only part of the reason Veolia workers rejected the settlement, the union says. ‘These are highly skilled workers who have great public responsibilities. They are tired of Veolia management’s daily disrespect for both their work and their humanity,’ explained Kinnear. ‘Yes, wages have to be improved but even that won’t help long term labour relations until Veolia’s attitude towards its employees improves.'”

ATU Local 113 President Bob Kinnear states, “If (Veolia) really believed their offer was fair, they would jump at the chance to put it in front of a neutral third party. But they can do the math and would rather inconvenience transit users than give up a small portion of their massive profits that they send back to shareholders in France.”

In Canada, beyond York Region, Veolia also operates transit services in the Greater Montreal Area: CIT Chambly-Richelieu-Carignan, Ville de Sainte-Julie Transit, and Ville de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu Transit. The Council of Canadians has noted that Veolia has a growing presence in the delivery of public transit in Canada and related that to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). For a recent blog – NEWS: CETA implications for the Toronto Transit Commission – please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6468.

Additionally, WTOP reports that, “There could be a strike among transit workers serving Loudoun County (which is in Virginia, but also part of the Washington Metropolitan Area). …Loudoun County Transit, which carried 770,000 passengers last year, is owned by a French multi-national company called Veolia. …The Teamsters union representing the 78 bus drivers and mechanics of Loudoun County Transit says the employees want a new contract to replace one that expires March 3 and has already been extended since 2009. …The starting salary for drivers is about $15 per hour with steps up to $17.65. But Union spokesman Sean Cedenio says Veolia is trying to lower that amount in a new contract, even though the county has been steadily increasing its subsidy each year.”

A recent Teamsters media release notes, “Veolia is a French multinational company with operations throughout the U.S. and Canada, and Loudoun County Transit is one of its many North American contracts. The Teamsters represent thousands of Veolia members at all three of the company’s North American subsidiaries. Veolia derives over $1 billion in revenue from its U.S. operations and more than $7.6 billion worldwide, positioning itself as one of the most profitable transportation conglomerates in the world.”

The web-links are at http://www.thestar.com/news/article/941802–vaughan-commuters-brace-for-strike, http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110218/york-region-transit-strike-110218/20110218?hub=TorontoNewHome, http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/February2011/18/c4446.html, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/loudoun-county-transitveolia-workers-march-on-boss-116331939.html, and http://www.wtop.com/?nid=120&sid=2274468.