On Tuesday May 14, 2019, Winnipeg transit workers initiated a one day fare strike. Bus drivers did not enforce fare collection. This job action is in support of better service, lower fares and safer working conditions.
Transit workers with ATU 1505 have been without a contract since January 12. A proposal from the City was turned down by a 98% margin. Workers are demanding better safe working conditions, and are working with transit riders and anti-poverty groups for better service and lower fares. Overcrowding and fare disputes add to tensions between drivers and riders escalating the possibility of violence.
Better service is in everyone’s interest. Unfortunately, the City of Winnipeg has not invested sufficiently in transit. According to the transit union’s figures, Winnipeg spends only $93.28 per person on Transit, compared to $252.59 in Edmonton and $305.03 in Ottawa. This results in fewer buses on the road per capita. To make matters worse, the Provincial government has cut funding and recinded its 50/50 cost sharing agreement with the City. Transit workers and riders need action now.
This job action was meant to show solidarity with all Winnipeg residents, including other workers and especially people with low incomes who depend on the bus.
ATU1505 president Aleem Chaudhary told CBC: “Rather than disrupt the lives of many, many thousands of people, who go to work and go about their daily business, we would rather provide the service, but at the same time, we want to take job action.”
This attitude of solidarity is timely as Winnipeggers celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1919 General Strike in which tens of thousands of Winnipeg workers went on a sympathy strike to support striking municipal workers. You can show your support for transit workers by calling for action to reduce fares, improve service and ensure all workers have the safe conditions they deserve.
It would also seem that we may have an early provincial election. 32 of the 57 electoral ridings are in the city of Winnipeg. We can make adequate investment in our provincial capital’s public transportation system an election issue. Winnipeg is also home to the federal electoral riding with the third highest rate of child poverty in Canada, Winnipeg Centre.
One positive step the city is taking towards making fares more accessible is they are working towards developing a low income bus pass, with the first phase planned for 2020. Unfortunately, the city is considering only a minimal 20% reduction in full month adult fares. This plan will not meet the needs of low income families and individuals. Poverty groups are asking for more immediate action with a deeper discount, sliding fares based on income, discounted single fares and availability for families and seniors. There will be a community meeting on May 22 at West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice) at 12 pm on how to organize to ensure the low income bus pass meets community needs.
More information is available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/445067309396382/
Or Call Social Planning Council of Winnipeg at 204-943-2561 for details.