Monday, January 12, 2009

Living In Ottawa

I am sure everyone has heard about the Ottawa transit strike by now. It has been going on for more than a month now. It has the entire city in complete chaos and everybody (even the non bus-riders) has an opinion on it.

Personally Irene and I (and most of my suburban friends) are not totally messed up. We are in the enviable position of owning a car and Irene is able to get a ride to work with her dad. However I would prefer to take the bus to work, especially on the really snowy days.

The problem is there are many people in this city who totally depend on the buses to get around for everything. A lot of those people are probably in the lower income bracket and they certainly don't have the luxury of buying a car or getting to work late.

Basically what I am saying is that there is not a lot of sympathy for the bus drivers. Personally I think they are a bunch of greedy bumcaps. First of all there is so much economic uncertainty right now and these guys are saying that they want more, more, more. They already have very good job security, high pay, etc. and all this with a high school education. (It reminds me of GM and Ford). Secondly, the main issue they are arguing for is control of the scheduling. But in every other transit system in North America the scheduling is run by the management. The city of Ottawa wants to be able to take control of scheduling in order to save money by hiring less drivers and buying less buses. It would also be safer since currently some of the younger drivers have to work insane shifts because the senior guys take all the good ones. It doesn't make sense to have the inexperienced guys doing the harder shifts - accidents are bound to happen.

From the city's side I have never seen the city council and mayor agree on anything since Larry O'Brien was elected. But on this issue the council is tight. It makes sense to all of them that OC Transpo needs some changes.

Recently the city proposed a new contract (much the same as the first one) that included some serious raises (7% I think!) and a good signing bonus. Who gets a 7% raise?!? That is ridiculous. But it is all a ploy to pay off the drivers so that they accept the scheduling being handled by the city. The union voted to turn down the offer. About 75% voted 'no' according to the union. And now it's back to striking, and insane traffic and people's lives being messed with.

I think a few things should come out of this:
1. Public transit should be designated an essential service - so they can't strike.
2. The city should control scheduling - it just makes sense.
3. The city should set a deadline and if they aren't back to work by that time, fire 'em all.
4. The provincial/federal government should step in and get some legislation through that forces them back to work.

The somewhat humourous aspect of this is that the city is saving millions of dollars while the transit system is down while the union is losing huge. That is because OC Transpo, like every other transit system in the world (except Tokyo I think), is a money losing system and it is not like a regular business. But it is essential.

So get back to work you stupid bumcaps.

Edit: Apparently the term asshats (as hilarious as it sounds) is not appropriate. I have reverted to the more subtle term: 'bumcaps'. Please notify me if that is inappropriate too.
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