Gatineau public transit users could be forced to look at other means of transportation by week’s end as the union that represents the Quebec region’s public transit workers has given the Outaouais regional bus system a 72-hour strike notice.
The notice comes as the Canada Industrial Relations Board ruled Monday that the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) is not an essential service.
“Yes, the notice has been sent,” said Félix Gendron, the president of the Syndicat uni du transport Local 591, in an email Tuesday.
While the notice clears the way for strike action as early as week’s end, a strike could then be called any time over the next 60 days, when a new strike notice would be required.
Gendron said the union will have more to say publicly after a series of meetings with its members on Wednesday. The last of the meetings is scheduled for 7 p.m., he said.
The STO had argued “that the response time for ambulance services and firefighters will be affected to the extent that the health and safety of the public will be in danger.”
But in a unanimous decision, the CIRB ruled that “the Board is not satisfied that in the event of a strike declared by the union and its members or a lockout declared by the employer, it is necessary to issue an order for the maintenance of certain activities or supply of services to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the health and safety of the public.
In a statement posted on its web site, the STO said it “remains hopeful that it will be able to continue the negotiations in order to reach an agreement that is satisfactory and fair for employees, patrons and taxpayers.”
At the heart of the labour strife are the terms of a collective agreement to replace the contract that expired two years ago.
According to the STO, transportation services for people with disabilities would not be affected
by a possible strike because Paratransit is provided by a subcontractor.
“A mediation meeting is planned for this Friday, Jan. 20,” the STO said.
But Gendron would not say whether the union would be attending the mediation meeting.
The union withdrew from labour negotiations on Jan. 6 “until further notice” after disciplinary measures were imposed on some of its members.
Last month, the union voted last 98 per cent in favour of a strike mandate within 60 days.