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Uprising In Ontario - Local 1587-Toronto, ON, Wages Successful Strike Amidst Labour Strife in Ontario

It was the perfect storm that led to a victory for ATU Local 1587-Toronto, ON.  

Local 1587 had been in contract negotiations for its 2,200 members of GO Transit for seven months with little progress, and members were without a contract since June 1.  Safety and job security were top priorities since bargaining began in April, but Metrolinx, the employer, refused to add language that would protect GO Transit jobs from being contracted out – so members overwhelmingly voted to strike.  


Solidarity Across Ontario

In the midst of all this, CUPE/OSBCU representing 55,000 education workers, gave five days’ notice to the province that they would strike on November 4 if they could not come to an agreement at the bargaining table.  

In a bold move to prevent education workers from striking and to keep students in class – the Ontario Government immediately invoked the “Notwithstanding Clause” on public sector workers with Bill 28.  This draconian legislation gives the government supreme power to supersede workers’ charter rights to collective bargaining and their right to strike.  Most importantly, the wording of the Bill leaves workers and their unions with no legal recourse and governments would have the ability to impose a contract. Workers were told that any strike action on November 4 would be illegal, with each worker facing fines of $4,000 per day and the union facing fines of $500,000 per day.    

This legislation is a threat to workers’ rights and freedoms and if Bill 28 survived in Ontario with all other provinces watching closely, other provinces could follow suit.  It was clearly an attack on the labour movement and a union busting tactic!

This was a huge moment in the history of the labour movement in Canada.  As our Locals across the province joined labour leaders from across the country and public and private sector unions came together with masses of people on the front steps of the Government at Queen’s Park in Toronto and in communities all across Ontario to stand in solidarity with education workers. This was a fight for our rights and freedoms, calling for the government to repeal Bill 28. The upheaval on city streets continued throughout the weekend, and on Monday, November 7 Premier Doug Ford announced that the Province would repeal Bill 28 and CUPE/OSBCU agreed to go back to work and the bargaining table.


Local 1587 Strike Day

Coincidentally, November 7 was the first strike day for Local 1587 GO Transit workers and the timing could not be better.  Given that the province had just announced the repeal of Bill 28, it was unlikely that transit workers would be legislated back to work. However, we needed to keep the pressure on Metrolinx.

Our Union put troops on the ground alongside ATU Canada President Di Nino was International President John Costa rallying workers on picket lines and pressuring Metrolinx to give our members the fair contract they deserve. Our strike was covered widely by Toronto and national media outlets. International Vice Presidents Manny Sforza and Kenneth Wilson assisted in bringing political allies, community groups and thousands of other union workers together to help force the employer to go back to the table.

On the third day of the strike, to ramp up our campaign, a press conference was held at Queen’s Park with ATU Canada President John Di Nino, International President Costa, International Vice-Presidents Sforza, and Wilson to shame Metrolinx and accuse them of bad faith bargaining.  Metrolinx immediately agreed to go back to the bargaining table the next day.


Time to Get a Deal

To increase pressure, a rally was held outside the hotel where the bargaining committee would be meeting, and all striking GO Transit workers were asked to be there. An overwhelming number of supporters and labour leaders from the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Canadian Labour Congress, CUPE/OSBCU, and several other labour union allies and local politicians joined us in an amazing display of solidarity as we shut down the street and made a lot of noise. 

Following the rally, International President Costa and ATU Canada President Di Nino led hundreds of workers marching through the hotel to the bargaining table as bargaining commenced.

Later that same evening, Metrolinx and Local 1587 had reached a strong tentative agreement meeting all our demands, including the critical contracting out language and safety provisions. The strong contract was ratified by the members the next week.

“It’s great to see that the Labour Movement in Canada is alive and kicking in 2022,” said ATU Canada President John Di Nino. “This was truly the most powerful demonstration of union strength I have ever seen by the ATU in Canada, and we are truly Stronger Together.”

“I am proud of our GO Transit members. On the picket lines and rallies, I saw firsthand their strength, unity, and solidarity,” said ATU International President John Costa. “The result was a strong contract that recognizes the commitment and dedication of these frontline heroes to provide safe and reliable transportation for our riders who rely on GO Transit. Our members now have a pathway to the middle class for the essential public service they provide. It was an honor to hold the line with you.”