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‘I just want to get to school’: GO bus riders find other ways to commute as strike set to last all week


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‘I just want to get to school’: GO bus riders find other ways to commute as strike set to last all week

GO Transit buses will be off the roads at least through the end of the week, the union representing striking workers told the Star Tuesday.

About 2,200 GO Transit bus operators, station attendants, transit safety officers, fare inspectors and other workers walked off the job Monday after failing to reach a deal with Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency that oversees GO Transit and the Union Pearson Express.

ATU Local 1587, the union representing the workers, said the next round of talks between the union and Metrolinx will take place Friday morning. Workers will remain off the job at least until then.

“We’re hoping (Metrolinx) will bring a serious offer on Friday,” said Local 1587 president Rob Cormier.

Metrolinx chief spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said the transit agency is “pleased the ATU leadership will be returning to the negotiating table” Friday for the “21st bargaining session since April 2022.”

“Metrolinx remains hopeful an agreement can be reached,” she said.

As the strike stretched into its second day Tuesday, commuters across the GTHA were left scrambling, making alternate travel plans or in some cases just staying home.

Sreekesh Skreekantan managed to catch a $17 ride to work in North York Tuesday via a carpool app, after bus cancellations left him stranded at home in Brampton on Monday.

“It is very, very frustrating,” he said, adding he doesn’t know how he’ll return to work. The disruption has pushed him to look for jobs closer to home.

Since the strike began, Maham Khan has watched her commute time downtown double. She regularly rides the GO bus from Markham to her job near Union Station; now, she’s spending two hours in traffic to drive to work.

The strike, which does not affect trains, has left roughly 15,000 daily passengers in limbo, including students who rely on the service to get to class.

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After borrowing her sister’s car to write a midterm on campus Monday, Komal Naeem, a computer science student at McMaster University, says she has no plans to go back until the strike is over — or at least until her next exam in two weeks.

“Hopefully a deal is made by then,” she said. She takes the GO bus from Aldershot to get to school each day.

Another McMaster student, Sylvie Berg, said she spent more than two hours cycling to and from class Monday. “Hopefully the strike ends soon,” Berg said in an email. “I just want to get to school.”

GO buses reach more than a dozen colleges and universities across the GTHA.

Cormier told the Star on Tuesday afternoon he is eager to get back to the table with Metrolinx.

“We don’t want to be on strike,” he said. “We want a fair contract.”

The major holdup, Cormier said, is around language pertaining to contracting out, which the union says is key for workers’ job security and to ensure the safety of GO Transit.

Eighty-one per cent of workers rejected Metrolinx’s latest deal. The workers have been without a contract for seven months.

On Monday, Metrolinx said that Local 1587 turned down its offer of four more weeks of negotiations and decided to strike.

“We were quite surprised that the ATU tabled several new issues, with new language and time ultimatums that could not be reasonably met and then walked away from the negotiations over the weekend,” the transit agency said.

Speaking to reporters Monday, union leaders accused Metrolinx of negotiating in “bad faith” and said they would be filing a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, though Metrolinx said it has “always bargained in good faith.”

Lex Harvey is a Toronto-based transportation reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @lexharvs

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