Updated August 23
I hear people saying that there’s going to be a transit strike. What’s happening?
The City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Transit workers’ union are at an impasse after being unable to agree on a new labour contract since their previous deal expired in January.
After 93% of the transit union’s 1,400 members voted down the City’s “final offer” on August 16, the City likewise rejected the transit union’s latest counter-offer on Thursday. Despite several rounds of negotiations and the involvement of a mediator, the two sides are still around $68 million apart on their latest proposals, according to city officials.
At this point, a transit stoppage either by strike or by lockout — whereby the City would try to soften the union’s negotiating stance by pre-emptively shutting down transit services to prevent transit workers from coming to work and getting paid — seems likely for early September.
While the transit union president has denied that there are plans to strike, saying it is “the last thing” they would ever do, halting transit services during the back to school period would prove the most disruptive and place the most pressure on the city to return to the bargaining table.
If a strike does happen, how will this affect me getting to campus?
A strike could last anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks and take multiple forms.
One option is for bus drivers to continue driving their routes but simply stop collecting bus fares – as happened in May. In this case, if you rely on commuting by bus you should be able to get to campus just as you normally do.
Another option is for transit drivers to take coordinated action to seriously slow services – think of a bus coming once an hour, instead of every 15 or 20 minutes – or restrict services to a handful of key routes. In this case, you should plan to allow considerably more time to get to campus or arrange for a different way to get to campus, as a reduction in service frequency would probably mean that the few buses that are running will be full all the time.
The most drastic form of a strike would see bus services stop altogether. In this case you will certainly need to find alternative transport to campus.
If I need to find alternative transport to campus, what are my options?
If you live near enough to cycle or walk, then that is your best option. UMSU is already working on establishing a free bike valet service for 200 places from Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm at the UMCycle Kiosk and in from of the Fitzgerald building on Fort Garry campus in the event a stoppage occurs.
Should a stoppage last into the second week of September, UMCycle will be operating group bike rides from downtown to Fort Garry campus, wherein those cycling from downtown can meet up at a designated spot and follow an experienced rider to campus. For more information, email UMCycle@umsu.ca or call 204 474 8484
If you aren’t able to cycle or walk to campus, then we suggest carpooling. The ridesharing program GoManitoba is a free service that matches drivers and riders – you can learn more and sign up here.
If there’s a transit stoppage, do I still have to pay for my U-Pass?
Yes and no. You will still have to pay for your U-Pass initially, as the contract between UMSU and Winnipeg Transit mandates that U-Pass fees be collected in their entirety alongside tuition.
However, the contract also states that should a transit stoppage last more than five days, the City of Winnipeg Public Services Department agrees to recommend to City Council that they refund U-Pass users a portion of the fees equal to the amount of time that transit services are out of order. So you would get your money back – this was confirmed by the City’s director of communications on August 22.
UMSU is monitoring the situation closely and working with the University administration to put contingency plans in place. Please check our website and social media for regular updates and new information as it becomes available.