As York Region Transit strike drags on, region under increasing pressure to get involved.
As the York Region Transit strike enters its sixth week, upset residents continue to speak out against the work stoppage. They describe the issues they face as they try to get to work and school or simply take care of daily errands.
There are even stories of people losing their jobs because they simply can't get to work without bus service. It's hard not to feel empathy for these people, but the fact is the region is doing the right thing. It's in a difficult position because, while it is responsible for the service, it can't, for contractual reasons, intervene. More importantly, it shouldn't intervene.
The region's only way to get involved would be to ask the province to order drivers back to work and force binding arbitration. But the region is leery of such a move because of the uncertainty that comes with the arbitration process.
An outcome against the region would leave taxpayers to foot the bill. And that's not an option. The majority of York residents are already subsidizing transit to the tune of $4 per ride. We don't want to pay any more. The union continually points out YRT drivers are underpaid compared to their counterparts at the TTC. But judging by the situation with the TTC, it appears YRT drivers aren't underpaid so much as TTC drivers are overpaid. The TTC model simply isn't sustainable, which is one of the reasons Toronto is facing tough financial decisions.
TTC employees are included in the city's planned elimination of more than 2,000 positions, which means city officials aren't prepared to ask taxpayers to further subsidize that service. While the two sides can't seem to agree on the raise the union is seeking, imagine if YRT drivers get the 20-per-cent increase regional councillors say is being sought.
That number will be the starting point when the next union enters into contract negotiations, and so on and so on. The process will drive up the cost of services that simply wouldn't exist if not subsidized by all taxpayers. The reality is only a small percentage of York Region residents use YRT and not all are actually affected by this strike. Reports indicate about 40,000 riders are searching for alternative modes of transportation, but, in a region of more than 1.2 million, that's hardly a drop in the bucket. We want to see the strike come to an end, but not if it means taxpayer subsidization goes through the roof.
BOTTOM LINE: Taxpayers don't want to pay more to subsidize transit service.
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