Updated: Fri, 25 Sep 2009 19:34:31 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Ottawa transit union votes to keep right to strike

Ottawa transit union votes to keep right to strike

Ottawa transit workers involved in a 52-day strike last winter have voted to retain their right to strike instead of opting for binding arbitration to settle future disputes.

Union members voted 62 per cent to maintain the status quo. About 2,500 OC Transpo bus drivers and mechanics represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 had been eligible to vote on the proposal.

Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien said the city and the union have negotiated collective agreements in the past without resorting to a strike or lockout, and he said he was confident future differences can be resolved through negotiation.

"There is no change to the city’s position; we remain committed to the principles of collective bargaining and will continue to work together to find solutions that are in the best interests of management, ATU members, transit riders and the taxpayers of the City of Ottawa," O’Brien said in a release issued after the union vote was announced.

Under the now-rejected proposal, the union would have continued to negotiate collective agreements with OC Transpo, the transit company owned and operated by the City of Ottawa. However, binding arbitration would have been used to settle any outstanding issues.

The result of the vote means that union members have the right to strike, but can be ordered back to work by the federal government. OC Transpo is federally and not provincially regulated because some of its routes cross into Quebec.

Ottawa transit workers walked off the job last Dec. 10 after failing to reach an agreement with the city.

The strike dragged on until federal Transport Minister John Baird, MP for the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean, called an emergency debate on Jan. 29 to introduce back-to-work legislation.

That day, the city and union reached a tentative deal to resolve all outstanding issues with binding arbitration and the emergency debate was cancelled.

Union members ratified the deal on Jan. 31, a day after it was approved by council.

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