For the third time since August, the city’s transit agency is taking its maintenance union to court over illegal pressure tactics.
For the third time since August, the city’s transit agency is taking its maintenance union to court, claiming it is engaging in illegal pressure tactics that interfere with an essential service.
The Société de transport de Montréal alleges that despite an increased number of work hours by maintenance staff so far in 2019, the number of buses available during the morning rush has been at historically low levels because of tactics employed by unionized maintenance workers.
The Montreal Gazette reported last week that dozens of drivers are showing up for work and being told to stay put because there are not enough working buses for them to drive.
Speaking to the Montreal Gazette last week, STM director general Luc Tremblay said many maintenance workers have refused to perform certain tasks they had always accepted in the past. Those who are working are doing so at a snail’s pace.
Tremblay’s comments echo those made by the STM’s executive director for buses, Renée Amilcar, in a December interview with the Montreal Gazette.
“I have the same bus fleet and the same buses, but for the same problems that could take me 15 or 20 hours to repair now, it takes me 30 hours. Why? It’s anyone’s guess,” Amilcar said, adding that the STM always seems to have more problems with its buses when it’s in negotiations with its maintenance union.
The two sides will each plead their case in front of Quebec’s workplace tribunal, the Tribunal administratif du travail, at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Alain Legault, a spokesperson for the agency, said roughly 30 per cent of the STM’s 1,808 buses are parked or sitting on hydraulic lifts waiting to be repaired or for maintenance to be performed on them. In 2017, the rate of parked buses was just over 21 per cent.
Maintenance union president Gleason Frenette blamed management for the problems, saying his members work hard to maintain and repair the buses.
“We are not applying any pressure tactics at the moment,” Frenette said last week. “But surely members are fed up seeing their director denigrating them in the media. We have never before seen a director general go out and denigrate his employees publicly”
The STM has nearly 200 fewer maintenance workers than it did when Tremblay took over as director general in 2014, Frenette said. He added that new methods employed to save on overtime hours by reducing the number of people who work on fuelling buses at the end of the day have resulted in more breakdowns than usual.