SASKATOON – A coordinated effort to not wear proper uniforms by Saskatoon Transit operators over a number of days in mid-March achieved its goal of raising public awareness according to the president of the transit union.
“Our riders certainly have been, on our behalf, calling their [city] councillors and that was the whole intent behind the issue,” said Jim Yakubowski, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union 615.
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The union has been without a contract since 2012. The main points of contention revolve around wages and the pension plan. The city contends their offer is “fair and competitive,” while the union disagrees.
The move for drivers to wear casual clothes started last Wednesday and ended the following Tuesday, after city officials sent letters to operators clarifying the uniform requirements.
“We let that go for a period of time, but then after a number of days went by we decided that it was time to step in,” said Jeff Jorgenson, the city’s general manager of transportation and utilities.
Jorgenson said the majority of operators complied with the city’s request.
“I see the city is out there, stating that they want to get it resolved, so I am stating the same thing,” said Yakubowski, who has been given a strike mandate by his members, but indicated he wanted to find a resolution without disrupting transit service.
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Appealing to the public during contract negotiations is not a new strategy. However, its effectiveness often depends on who is on the other side of the message, according to Daphne Taras, dean at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business.
“It really depends on the mood of the public, there’s not much that people can do to persuade the public against what the public already feels,” said Taras, who has a doctorate degree in labour relations.
“It can backfire, it can be very successful.”