Photo shows a HSR supervisor car on the right, with a HSR 60-foot articulated bus to its left. Both are waiting at an intersection during a red light.
A Hamilton Street Railway supervisor vehicle and articulated bus in Downtown Hamilton in late June 2020 Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

The City of Hamilton has made a “final offer” to HSR employees, says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107.

“The Union and the Employer have just concluded 2 days or bargaining. These talks have resulted in the union being presented with a ‘Final Offer’,” reads an email sent by the ATU to its approximately 900 members at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Union says it will share the offer with its members on November 2nd and 3rd, ahead of a vote on Sunday, November 5.

“Undertanding the negotiating committee is strongly recommending a no vote,” the email continues. “A no vote will be a vote in favor [sic] of strike action.”

The ATU is seeking a seven percent pay increase in the first year of a new contract, along with working condition and benefit improvements.

The City’s largest employee union, CUPE 5167, recently ratified a new four-year contract with a 3.75 percent pay increase in the first year, with three-per-cent increases in the second, third and fourth years.

Hamilton hosts the Grey Cup game on November 19.

When Hamilton hosted the Grey Cup in 1996. HSR workers going on strike a week before the game.

As TPR reported in a February newsletter edition:

“Facing the embarrassment of hosting a Grey Cup without bus service, the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth Council quickly caved.

The six-day strike ended just in time for the Grey Cup parade.

The Region gave HSR workers a two-year sweetheart deal.

The union got nearly everything they wanted and a $1000 signing bonus to get buses back on the road. [$1717 inflation-adjusted to today]

The signing bonus was greater than a week’s salary. The top-paid bus operators made around $800 per week at the time.

Two years later, in 1998, the Region held the line on HSR wages and benefits, offering three percent on wages, and no concessions on other union demands.

A 12-week strike followed.”

There has not been an HSR strike since that 12-week shutdown in 1998/99.

In September, the City of Hamilton asked Ontario’s Ministry of Labour for a no-board notice to enable the City to lock out HSR employees.

The no-board notice was issued on October 25, allowing for a strike or lock-out to begin on October 25.

The ATU states it will not strike before its members vote on November 5th. The City states it has no intention of locking out HSR workers, but is declining to commit to any timeline not to do so.

An HSR strike will not affect DARTS service.

CORRECTED VERSION: The original version stated Hamilton last hosted the Grey Cup in 1996. This was wrong. Hamilton hosted in 2021.

Production Details
v. 1.1.0
Published: October 24, 2023
Last edited: October 24, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
Edit Record
v. 1.0.0 original version
v. 1.1.0 correction - Hamilton last hosted the Grey Cup in 2021

24 replies on “Hamilton City Hall Makes “Final Offer” to HSR Workers”

  1. I am disabled and use the hsr for my travel around the city. If there is a strike that lasts longer than a few days I will be unable to attend my appointments at the doctor’s. As well as getting to my family and friends homes. We pay for the service and we are not getting the service that we deserve. I’m sorry that the bus drivers feel like they have to go to this means but they have to remember that they are not the only ones who are in this city.

    1. Hi Randy,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I recall the 1998/99 strike, as a healthy teenager, I recall missing school, social activities, and more. I could walk hours to get places.
      A strike will be a terrible experience for everyone, let’s hope a deal can be reached.

      1. I come From.brampton once or twice month by go bus and then hamiltion go how get my friend place I can’t afford a cab I on disability

  2. I tai take the bus to St. Peter’s hospital every day to see my mum. I can’t afford a cab back and forth

  3. I would like to say that a really appreciated this article.
    The union said they might go on strike at 12:01am on the 25th. A lot of people including myself, take the bus early in the morning to go to work. Not a single other news outlet has posted an article at the time of me posting this (5:15am). Not CBC, Global news, CHCH, Hamilton spectator, no one else. No other news outlet decided to stay awake past midnight to post an article. So thank you.

  4. They should live with my rages for a couple of months. I make 17.50 an hr pay for tansit food roof over my head don’t have much left you guys should try to live with what alot of us folk bring in and maybe you would appreciate what you are making per pay cheque.
    I know i would love to make the money you make so i could go on trips buy a house a car or maybe just pay for a roof over my head good food on the table not having to worry how i am getting to work and a bank account with some money to call my own you should be happy with what you are getting some people don’t make enough and need a food bank to help.
    These are just my opinion.

    1. I don’t think you’re the only poor person affected. I understand from the driver’s point of view though. We will be seeing more strikes as well.

    2. You should deal with the public like they do. Have the responsibility of operating a bus. I wouldn’t do it for twice what they earn.
      I take the bus everyday to work but the city is operating in bad faith. If this doesn’t get resolved I’ll make it my mission to see every current counselor tossed to the curb next election .

    3. I hear often from people saying how they would love to make the wage we get…ironically we always need drivers and HSR is hiring. Seems the jib can’t retain a steady workforce. Apply and do the job I do…maybe you’ll understand why all isn’t as it seems. The job is demanding.

  5. Hi all
    I’m disabled I have a walker I utilize every day .
    I have concussion and dizzy and more
    Taking the bus to do Arrends and see doctors and go to church is the only way I can travel.
    How ever in ottawa.ont they have what is called paratranspo for disability. And we pay for a bus root to the driver .why can’t the city of Hamilton accommodate, us disable people the same .
    I have colitis and also diabetes no.1
    Her bus should consider looking into doing the same as ottawa ont they also have taxis who are taking care of disability. Being disabled is not izzy and its not a free life as some people think it is .
    We need better transportation for disability.
    And no hsr bus should not go on strike .
    Not my job to give them a raise .
    Do they need indeed they do .
    The bus driver has a big responsibility
    So think about this .

    1. I rely on the HSR as well and I’m with CUPE. This will be the start of many strikes as privatization looms. I’m with the drivers. Vote out Conservatives. They’re wrecking our workplaces and creating more poverty.

  6. HSR should be deemed ESSENTIAL and not be allowed to strike….so many people rely on the services…but on the other slide ..the city should not black mail them …putting on the blame oh the unions shoulders.

  7. Last year HSR could not hire enough
    Now the city is not bargaining in good faith.

  8. Yes, everyone is impacted.

    Here’s the thing – they know that. They know that people rely on them. They know that there’s people out there with x y z and therefore need transit or else they literally can not function. They know that the city is in chaos without transit.

    It’s called leverage. That’s why strikes exist. Give them what they want/need or chaos ensues. That’s the deal. They don’t care what the cost is, but the people that have a say in it probably should.

    Fix it.

  9. Everything is going up in price and these poor drivers that work so hard and take so much abuse from the public on a daily basis deserve to get paid just like anyone else. I wouldn’t dare try driving something the size of a house through the congested streets of Hamilton on a daily basis in some of the worst weather imaginable. From what I understand talking to drivers when I ride the bus, they are personably responsible for the lives carried on their busses as a condition of their license. It’s not the same as just driving an Uber. It’s easy for us all to say that they should be mandated as an essential service or that they don’t deserve fair pay, but we need to understand it from their shoes. Furthermore it looks like they have only gone in strike maybe every few decades. Just a little bit of pain for us to go through to make sure they are looked after. Remember good pay for everyone not only helps the local economy but also retains better people and better quality of service. We get what we pay for!

  10. I take a bus to & from work everyday. It’s a 30 min ride most days. It’s much too far to walk & the thought of a cab/uber 2x’s daily is unaffordable. I really hope a deal is reached. . I am an essential worker & earn considerably less than hsr drivers.

  11. I use a walker on the Hsr.
    My disability issues can be considered invisible.
    My thought is do Drivers
    Deserve a raise. Maybe but only a few. There last run of a shift is dangerous. They drive like madmen – women too. Some are racist,ignorant! How many times have they parked far from the curb for me to access the curb. It breaks their heart to put down the
    Low floor. NO RAISE – maybe when the bad apples straighten up their act.
    I Bless the good drivers, you sleep well at night!

  12. All wages should be tied to inflation. City should address this issue, and pay it’s workers fairly.

  13. For transparency, I’m a city employee, so I’m using a fake name to avoid potential retaliation for what I’m about to say.

    As someone with leg problems, I still believe it imperative that we wage workers stand together and support one another in our collective action, regardless of the price we pay in recompense.
    The City is using the fact that the HSR is so essential in order to pit us against each other; this way they can distract us all from their horrible mismanagement of our essential public transportation system.
    The City Council doesn’t maintain the streets properly, each councillor cutting corners in the funding of roadwork in order to make their spending performance look better (Matthew Greene, for example); meanwhile the City as a whole invests in overpriced vanity projects like the LRT rather than converting the HSR fleet into electric trolley busses as a transitionary step to implementing a full streetcar/funicular/subway network – all because they care more about looking good immediately rather than ensuring a better future for their constituents in the long term.

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