ATU local 113 workers have been on strike since Thursday Oct. 2, after talks broke down between the union and the company. The Bus workers are striking for two simple demands, better working conditions and paid sick days—they currently have none. The view from the picket line looked positive, despite the rain, Tuesday as the union’s contract negotiating team went back to the table with the company to try again to reach an agreement. However, by the end of the day negotiations had not made any headway and local 113 was forced to continue the strike. And as 35,000 commuters anxiously await a swift end to the strike this does not appear likely. The economic downturn is Viva’s “wild card” excuse for the abhorrent working conditions that drivers must endure. But, in reality, this is untrue. The French transit company Viva is already notorious for its anti-worker labour practices in North America and Abroad.

The company is one of four contracted bus companies in the GTA which were engaged by the city to manage and run certain transit systems around the city. But, while the city of Toronto saves money and management time they allow a private company with its own private interests to run things as they see fit leaving the workers to pay the price. Members of local 113 argued that the fight for paid sick days is a fight for rights and is a question of health and safety. As workers told Fightback supporters on the picket line, “people are put at risk when they’re forced to work when they’re sick.” Furthermore, last winter Viva refused to equip their Buses with winter tires and drivers were intimidated into continuing to working under threat of losing their jobs and were disciplined when crashes did occur. Viva’s forcing a strike on basic issues like sick days demonstrates that they are unwilling to give an inch when it comes between them and their profits (of which 42 billion were made worldwide for the company last year).

Many commuters have reasonably become annoyed by the length of this strike. But, problems arise when strikers and unions are seen as the as “bad guys” for trying to fight for decent treatment at while on the job. Some misguided responses by commuters and other drivers have even escalated to violence and intimidation. In reality, it is the company’s unfair policy that has forced the workers hand, raising the cost of existing health and dental benefits by 35% while decreasing the amount of coverage. The bosses’ only excuse for this increase is that local 113, “uses their benefits package too much…” Workers must stand up against these anti-worker policies and their fighting power rests in their power to withhold their labour power and refuse to accept the crumbs which fall from the table of Viva profits.

It is important to see the small struggles as important as the larger ones because without fighting the company on these issues workers open themselves up for further battles down the road for past gains they currently enjoy. In times of economic downturn companies are even more aggressive in their pursuit of profits and workers can expect some hard fights ahead. The choice is on what ground will the battles be fought? For new gains? Or the protection of old ones? Fightback fully supports ATU 113 in their struggle against unfair labour practices and poor working conditions on the job and have organized regular solidarity visits to the picket line. Working people deserve better than this and its time they got it!

If you would like to join Fightback’s next picket visit please email