Frontline TTC workers will be wearing shirts that read “Keep Transit Public” over their uniforms today as part of a silent protest against Premier Doug Ford’s plans to seize control of the subway system.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 President Carlos Santos organized the campaign. He said that the protest is being held in response to ongoing discussions between the city and province regarding the potential upload of the subway.

According to the terms of reference for those talks, which were released last week, three options are being considered:

  • A full transfer of the subway system to the province.
  • The transfer of all future subway projects to the province.
  • Another scenario in which the province would assume responsibility for the delivery of future subway projects but would not actually own the infrastructure.

“We have 11,500 members serving the City of Toronto and our members serve the City of Toronto better than any other transit agency in North America. We believe the subway being uploaded will lead to privatization and will reduce service and increase fares,” Santos said.

Santos said that workers will not be “disrupting service” in any way today and rather are holding a “silent protest in solidarity with the citizens of Toronto,” who he said are also concerned about the upload of the subway system.

He said that he can’t comment on whether any future action is planned but said that union members “know transit best” and deserve to have their voices heard.

“We have been trying to get a meeting with the province and they have refused to meet with us,” he said.

Today’s silent protest is being held in coordination with several other unions, including CUPE, and simultaneously with a campaign by the transit riders advocacy group TTCRiders.

Members of TTCRiders were stationed at 36 transit stations this morning across the city, handing out information pamphlets to customers about the upload.

Representatives from the both TTCRiders and ATU Local 113 were joined by local and provincial politicians outside Queen’s Park Station shortly after 9:30 a.m., where they accused the Ford government for ‘stealing from instead of fixing’ the TTC.

“Doug Ford does not care about transit riders. If he did, he would probably fund the TTC so we could have better service all across our city and more affordable fares, but that’s not what he’s doing, he’s taking our subway,” MPP and NDP transportation critic Jessica Bell told the crowd of supporters and reporters.

“We could have more fare hikes, we could have service cuts, and it means our city won’t have a say over how we want to build our city and plan our city. That’s not right.”

Councillor Joe Cressy drew a parallel between Ford’s decision to cut the size of council and the subway upload, accusing the Premier of “ignoring” Torontonians.

“The City of Toronto has been very clear, we oppose the subway upload. We voted in May of last year in opposition to the subway upload and we voted again in opposition in December,” he said.

“The TTC is a complex integrated network… It only works when it’s owned and operated as one. If you take one piece out, the whole system falls apart.”

Santos added that he believes there are many riders who aren’t aware of the possible implications the upload would have. He said he hopes his campaign and that of TTCRiders will help bring the looming issue to the forefront for the millions of people who ride the system daily.

“I find a lot of people don’t understand and a lot of people are just trying to get from A to B,” he said.

“But they’re tired of overcrowded and they’re tired of not having public transit. IF the provincial government really cared about our system, they wouldn’t not stopped funding it.”