I have a confession to make:
I knew nothing about the YRT system. My kids use it to get to school every day and I confess, it never occurred to me that there was something wrong with that system.
Until five weeks ago when the drivers went on strike.
Now I’ve come to realize that, like so many of the systems we trust to keep our society running, once you lift up the corner and peek underneath – there’s something rotten going on.
Even when the strike started my first feeling was, ‘Okay, it’s another strike, they’ll sort it out and everything will be fine.’
And then a week went by, and another week, and another. And then I started to wonder what was really going on. And I started to hear the stories behind the story.
And then I saw this video, a deposition by Lori Rose recorded at Monday’s Newmarket Town Council meeting, and it became much clearer to me what was really happening.
We’ve allowed a system to be created that is funded by public money, where no level of government can be held responsible because the labour has been outsourced and where those most in need of protection are left with none.
It now appears that transit riders dutifully pay their transit fares and that the transit workers earn significantly lower wages than other systems. It leads me to wonder, ‘So, where is the money going?’ Sure, some of the money is for maintenance and for keeping the system running. And some of it is profit. And that’s totally okay. Let’s be clear. I like profit. Private enterprise deserves profit. But how much? And at what cost to social justice. There is a difference between profit and profiteering. And when the workers are forced to bear the burden of the employers greed, something has gone wrong.
Those who use transit most – the students and youth, senior and working families – have been left without their main transportation source. Transit workers have sacrificed their income to fight for their rights, and most of the Region has gone on as if nothing had happened. Something is deeply wrong.
The transit workers are on strike, not because they want outlandish wages, but because they want to START approaching pay parity with other transit workers in the GTA. York Region is one of the wealthiest areas in Canada with a very high standard of living and yet we have some of the lowest paid transit workers in the GTA. Workers with no paid sick days, no pension plan and full-time wages that keep them close to the poverty level in this area. Something is wrong, don’t you think?
The workers are asking for binding, neutral arbitration. I urge the Region and YRT to pressure the bus companies to get back to the table and re-start negotiations.
And I urge you to contact your Regional Councillor and ask for the same.