One of the contentious issues is the City’s proposal to remove daytime shuttle buses between the HSR garage and the various starting points for HSR bus operators.
Removing the shuttle means HSR operators who drive the 11-Parkdale will spend up to 90 minutes riding HSR buses from Parkdale Avenue and Queenston Road back to the garage.
Many operators have told me the removal of the shuttles is the defining issue for them.
The profile of Hamilton’s transit workers has changed since the last HSR strike in 1998/99.
At the time, the HSR’s primary garage was at 330 Wentworth Street North, having moved in 1990 from its previous decade’s long home on King Street East at Wentworth Street.
Who could’ve predicted the late 1990s decision to move HSR operations from the lower city Wentworth Street North garage to near the airport would create the conditions for a potential strike?
From its founding in 1874, many HSR workers generally lived close enough to walk to the garage. HSR maintenance, managers, and office workers lived along the streetcar and trolley lines.
23 years ago, in 2000, shortly after the 12-week strike ended, the last HSR bus rolled out of the Wentworth garage. HSR employees could no longer walk or take transit to work.
HSR workers began migrating to Haldimand County. Many now live in Caledonia.
The drive to the HSR garage is quicker, and the cost of housing is lower, than living in Hamilton.
(The concentration of HSR workers in Caledonia posed a challenge for HSR operators during the peak of COVID. School COVID outbreaks in Caledonia strained HSR operations as many bus drivers were required to stay home to care for children or themselves.)
Back to the shuttle bus.
Bus operators who begin in the early morning will park their vehicles at the HSR garage, drive their bus into service, and, for the majority, end their shift in Downtown Hamilton. From there, they need to get back to the garage.
The reverse happens for the late evening shift. They park at the garage and take the shuttle to Downtown to begin their shift. At the end of the night, they drive the bus back to the garage, get in their car and end the night.
Acting City Manager Carlyle Khan wrote in a memo to HSR employees that “since all HSR employees already receive free transit, and the significant increases in service frequency since the shuttle was implemented years ago,” the City does not see the need to continue daytime shuttle services.
Back 25 years ago, the then-Region of Hamilton-Wentworth saved significant sums of money during the strike. Regional Council showed little interest in settling the strike, which lasted 12 weeks during November, December, January, and February.
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. In the end HSR workers gained little, 20 cents per hour.
Former Hamilton Mayor (1976 – 1980) Jack Macdonald summarized the cost to ATU union members in TheSpec on January 27, 1999:
“Drivers have lost 12 weeks pay at about $800 for a 40-hour week. In return for a $9,600 loss over 12 weeks, they gained about a further 20 cents an hour beyond the three-per-cent offer. In about 28 years, they will recover their loss.”
City Council has stated it will hold the line on the final offer – including the shuttle bus issue.
Production Details v. 1.0.0 Published: November 3, 2023 Last edited: November 3, 2023 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.0.0 original version