As of Oct. 20, Saskatoon public buses are back on the road.
After 28 days without transit service, the city’s buses are now running at regularly scheduled times. City councillors voted to rescind the second lockout notice during a special executive committee meeting on Oct. 18.
“It is because of our concern for our employees, transit riders and the citizens of Saskatoon that we have decided to end the lockout,” said Mayor Don Atchison in a press release.
The city is offering free transit for the rest of October, with regular transit fees resuming on Nov. 1.
On Oct. 17, the city issued a second lockout after the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board ruled that the city’s initial notice was illegal. The labour board came to that ruling because a complaint regarding the discipline of a city bus driver was outstanding when the lockout notice was issued. The complaint was resolved on Oct. 3.
The city was ordered to cease and desist the lockout and pay compensation to drivers for hours of lost work. Hours after the ruling, the city announced that it would lock transit workers out for a second time and not return buses to the roads.
Although the city was in a legal position to issue the second lockout, Atchison said the city lifted the lockout due to changing weather conditions.
“We promised riders and citizens we would not leave people out in the cold with no end in sight to the labour dispute,” said Atchison.
The city had locked out 330 workers on Sept. 20 after it failed to reach an agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615 on a new contract. Jeff Jorgenson, the city’s general manager of Transportation and Utilities, said in a press release that the city and ATU 615 are far from reaching a deal but have negotiated a back to work agreement.
The city has offered the union a 10 per cent wage increase over four years, an offer that the city’s eight other unions and associations accepted. The ATU’s latest proposal asked for a wage increase of 19 per cent.
The university’s temporary bus service, which began Oct. 10, has been cancelled. The U of S spent $10,000 per day to provide the service.
“The University of Saskatchewan really stepped up here to help hundreds of students, staff and faculty get to campus when they had no other way of doing so,” said Max FineDay, president of the U of S Students’ Union.
FineDay says the USSU is committed to refunding students’ U-Pass fees. Students will receive a refund of 60 cents per day, which includes the entire month of October.
“It’s great to see the Saskatoon community coming together to pressure city council to end the lockout,” FineDay said. “This was a win for all of us. It’s a success for students and a success for the city.”
The U of S Faculty Association presented ATU 615 with a $10,000 cheque on Oct. 20. The cheque was the association’s way of returning support the faculty received from city bus drivers during a 1988 faculty strike, when members of the transit union refused to drive their buses across the USFA’s picket line.
The Bus Riders of Saskatoon, a transit activism group that formed on Sept. 14, believes it had a strong influence on the outcome of the lockout. Over the past month, members of the group have been calling and writing their city councillors asking them to end the lockout.
The group, which now boasts 300 members, will continue to have meetings.
“We need to stay vigilant,” said member Ismaél Musñgi-Andrés in a Facebook post.
The city has previously said it had to lock transit workers out so a collective agreement could be reached before the weather turned too cold. Otherwise, the city warned that transit union members, who have a strike mandate, would walk off the job in the middle of winter.
The union has said it won’t strike now that the lockout has been lifted and Atchison said the city will take the members at their word.