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TTC Supports the Right to Strike!

Well, here’s something you don’t see all that often anymore.  While the City of Toronto explores the idea of designating the TTC (public transit authority) an “essential service”, the employer involved joined with the union recently in arguing that the workers should have a right to strike.

Of course, the TTC executives are not taking this position out of a sudden enlightenment of the International Labour Organization’s claims that the right to strike is a fundamental human right, and that Canada’s record of supporting this right is abysmal.  The TTC has more pragmatic reasons for resisting an “essential services” designation.  It is that they predict that allowing workers to strike is actually a cheaper method of resolving bargaining disputes.   The Canadian way of dealing with unionized ‘essential workers’ is to send unresolved bargaining matters to Interest Arbitration–a process in which a neutral arbitrator imposes a collective agreement.  And interest arbitrators may not be sympathetic to the routine claims of the TTC that they have no money to match the salaries of transit workers in other regions.

There are studies too that suggest that interest arbitration can discourage real collective bargaining, since both parties know that an award will ultimately be ordered without the need of suffering the harm of a strike or lockout.   And, in any event, it’s still not clear to me what effect a city declaring a service essential will actually have, since it is the province that has jurisdiction over labour relations.



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