Tag Archives: strikes

Status quo at AMT

File photo of a train for illustration win!

File photo of a train for illustration win!

At midnight Friday night, CN locomotive engineers went on strike, following their 72-hour notice that sent everyone in a panic because two AMT train lines (Deux-Montagnes and Mont-Saint-Hilaire) are run by those engineers and would have been disrupted or even shut down if there was a strike.

Fortunately, late Friday night the union agreed (or was forced to through an AMT injunction) to keep service on the AMT trains running as normal through the strike.

As you can expect from the AMT’s deficient customer service, there’s no mention of this late-night, last-minute change – or even of the strike itself – on their website’s homepage, despite all the media attention it has been getting. Even under “avis aux voyageurs”, there’s no mention of the potentially crippling strike, and users get the very unhelpful “aucune information disponible” for the status of all five train lines. You have to know to go to the AMT’s corporate website to find a press release saying service won’t be affected.

Contrast that with VIA Rail, which has its own engineers and so wasn’t going to be affected in the first place. Nevertheless, there’s a section of its homepage for travel advisories, and it says very clearly that service won’t be affected by the CN strike. (VIA has some experience with this, going through a strike of its own this summer.)

At GO Transit in Toronto, it’s not as clear if there will be disruptions (and there’s nothing on the homepage), but the status page (updated regularly even on weekend afternoons) makes it clear the service is still running normally.

As for CN itself, the homepage makes it look like nothing’s wrong at first, but under “news releases” there’s mention of the strike, and the “state of the railroad” page has a few details about what’s going on.

I realize nobody likes to work weekends, and those who do can’t change the elaborate web page design that the boss’s nephew was paid lots of money to put together, but when engineers go on strike, we don’t care about your new train cars or how you’re fighting for the environment. We want to know what’s going on.

Free Press dispute gets nasty

(Not that I’ve ever witnessed a labour disruption that didn’t get tense)

Normally, in a show of good faith and to allow the bargaining process to proceed, both sides of a labour negotiation will keep the details of what’s said during talks to themselves. The union will advise its membership of any major issues, as well as give a general idea how talks are going, but that’s about it.

When the door closes and workers are on strike or lockout, that changes. It usually starts with the union, which decides to negotiate through the media. Inevitably, the employer responds to correct any “fals” or “misleading” statements that sully its good name.

The Winnipeg Free Press is on that course. Workers went on strike last week and quickly started up a competing news website at freepressonstrike.com, which includes news about the strike itself.

Yesterday, the Free Press (which can’t put out a newspaper and is instead just posting updates to its website) issued a statement correcting the record and offering its side of the dispute. Its main argument is that workers are paid well (better than at other papers) and get good benefits (like sick leave and holidays and stuff!). That statement led to stories from Canadian Press and CBC (the latter also talks about some silliness involving pork).

The striking workers countered with their own statement that many workers are paid at or near (or even below) minimum wage, and that it has been open and honest, posting offers on its website for all to see.

Unfortunately, both statements make both sides look childish in this process, and are good indications for why this kind of thing is normally not done. Both sides essentially accuse the other of being unreasonable and refusing to negotiate. It’s like two three-year-olds complaining to their mother that the other one is being mean.

Meanwhile, talks resumed this morning, as the union issued another statement that it had begun picketing a non-union shop that was distributing flyers for the FP (the publisher does not understand why a union on strike would have a problem with that?)

Here’s hoping those talks go well.

Gazette staff start byline strike

You know, everything happens on my day off.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Thursday’s paper was missing names on top of articles written by Gazette reporters (and under photos by Gazette photographers). The union called for a byline strike as a pressure tactic after being frustrated by negotiations.

For those who want some background, Slate explains what byline strikes are all about. The last time Gazette staffers did this was in 2001 to protest a new national editorial policy by Canwest, one that many people have asked me about years later thinking it’s still in effect.

UPDATE: Bylines are also being pulled from Habs Inside/Out.

So you all can just go ahead and assume all the articles are being written by me now. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

If only bus drivers had writers like these

Via Martine, the WGA, the American writers union which is currently holding us hostage by denying us House-isms on strike for the rights to more than mere pennies from DVD sales and all of nothing from online publishing of TV shows and movies, isn’t lying down or holding useless marches with picket signs. They’re creating media to rally support for their cause.

In essence, it’s a tactic we’ve seen before but on a much larger scale. When CBC employees were locked out in 2005, they started producing blogs and podcasts to keep communication going. After it was over, the blogger for CBC Unlocked, Tod Maffin, was given the job of running Inside the CBC, a decidedly uncorporate, uncensored blog about the inner life of the Mother Corp., with its blessing.

Locked-out journalists at the Journal de Québec are still, since April, putting out a competing daily newspaper as part of their pressure tactics. The move has rallied support among other unions (who have helped them financially) politicians and newsmakers (who refuse to deal with Canoe reporters, a fly-by-night “wire services” and other scabs) and readers (who have cancelled subscriptions and are picking up the competing paper).

With Hollywood, the tactic that’s getting the most play is online video (ironic since the dispute is over how little they get paid for online video). Writers for popular shows like The Office, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have been cracking jokes on YouTube, and the actors are coming out to support them. Some like McDreamy and co. talk calmly about the issues, others like Sarah Silverman make the funny, and then there’s Sandra Oh.

The latest campaign, called “Speechless“, involves short black-and-white clips of actors in a world without scriptwriters. Most of them are of the actor-stands-blank-faced-and-says-nothing variety. Others are pretty funny. There’s a new one every day.

Some of my favourites below:

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Another STM strike?

It sounds a lot like déjà vu: Montreal risks being “crippled” again by a transit strike.

The STM union representing bus and metro drivers and ticket-takers voted 97% in favour of a strike mandate today. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll strike, but it does mean the union can call one at any time. Negotiations broke off last month after a long stalemate at the bargaining table.

To be clear, this is a different union than the maintenance workers’ union that went on strike in May. Those workers agreed to return to work (after a pretty serious public backlash) but reserved the right to go back on strike. They have not yet agreed to a contract.

The only difference between the two: If this union goes on strike, you can blame the bus drivers for it.

UPDATE: The STM wants the union to stop pressure tactics that involve making managers do more work, such as bringing buses to the wrong garage or not locking up metros at night.