TTC not an 'essential service,' workers can go on strike, court rules
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2023 1:08PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 9, 2023 1:08PM EDT
TTC workers now have the legal right to strike after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled Monday that legislation declaring the transit agency an essential service is unconstitutional.
The decision by Justice Chalmers overturns legislation introduced in 2011 by the then provincial Liberal government banning TTC workers from walking off the job.
“It’s a great day for transit and a great day for all labour,” said Marvin Alfred, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents about 12,000 TTC employees.
“Even through the fight was costly it was fundamentally the right thing to do… we have this right returned.”
In the written decision, which was published online by the union, Chalmers wrote that the TTC does not provide “essential services” as the term is defined in case law.
“The evidence does not support the government’s position that the disruption of transit services in Toronto would ‘threaten serious harm’ or ‘endanger the life, personal safety or health’ of the whole, or part of the population,” the ruling read.
Arguments about the detrimental economic impact on workers affected by a TTC strike were also “inadequate,” Chalmers wrote.
“The government did not put forward an expert to provide an opinion on the economic consequences of a strike,” he said, adding that the reports referenced by the province are 15 years old and do not account for many office workers who are now able to work remotely following the pandemic.
“I conclude, on the evidence, that the benefits that may be achieved by removing the right of TTC employees to strike do not outweigh the harm caused by the loss of the right to meaningful collective bargaining.”
Chalmers also declined the government’s request to suspend the order for 12 months to give the province time to respond.
The union’s current collective agreement expires on March 31, 2024 and Chalmers said he believes temporarily suspending the order would be “unreasonable.”
“The applicants are not permitted to strike during the term of the collective agreement. Therefore, the government has effectively until March 31, 2024 to respond to this decision before the applicants will be in a legal position to strike,” he wrote.
“I conclude that there is no justification to delay implementation of my order.”
The union president called the law “irresponsible legislation.”
“We just had to negotiate our right to oxygen and sunshine when anytime we are dealing with the employer they know they always had this in their pocket,” Alfred said in an interview with CP24.
“We are looking forward to this being something that we will have equal footing when we have the next round of negotiations.”
In a brief statement emailed to CP24, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the transit agency is “aware of the decision” and is “assessing any potential impacts.”
“Our commitment is, and always will be, to work with our union partners to reach a negotiated settlement at the bargaining table,” he said.