STM maintenance workers to use pressure tactics as contract dispute continues

Métro cars are seen at STM repair centre in this 2016 file photo. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

STM maintenance workers say they will stop working overtime for six days, a pressure tactic that their union hopes will help them reach an agreement with the transit agency.

The announcement comes one day before bus drivers and métro operators are scheduled to vote on whether to give their union a strike mandate.

The Syndicat du transport de Montréal, which represents 2,400 maintenance workers, said the transit agency wants it to make more than 100 concessions — particularly when it comes to scheduling. That would include mandatory overtime, switching some workers from day shifts to night shifts and subcontracting some jobs.

The union says STM maintenance workers are already working too much overtime. 

“There is an answer to that: it’s to hire people. They need 300 or 400 more people,” said Dominique Daigneault, the president of the Conseil central du Montréal métropolitain of the CSN, a labour federation representing the maintenance workers’ union. 

“It’s unfair that those people work days and nights because there are not enough people to do all the work. This is why they are angry. They want to work full-time, but not more than that.”

The STM said it needs more flexibility in the way it organizes and distributes work in order to provide users with the level of service they expect.

“The STM would like to reiterate that the issues in the current negotiations do not affect salaries or benefits for employees,” it said in a statement.

“The use of overtime is conducted on a voluntary basis,” the STM said. “And like the union, the STM hopes to reduce the use of this practice. That will only be achieved through changes to the collective agreement.”

Maintenance workers will refuse overtime between midnight on May 7 and midnight on May 12. Workers will also refuse temporary job changes. 

The union said it expects the impact of the overtime strike on transit users will be minimal.

“We’re going to work 40 hours a week. We’re going to do everything to ensure the best service,” said Gleason Frenette, the president of the Syndicat du transport de Montréal. “It won’t affect users much, in my opinion, in the short term.”

The transit agency has also accused workers of vandalism and intimidation in the lead-up to the strike.

“There’s no intimidation, but they are angry and that is OK to say ‘we are angry because you don’t respect us,’ ” Daigneault said. “But there’s no intimidation.”

The STM began negotiations with four of the six unions that represent its employees in January, when their contracts expired.

In March, members of the Syndicat du personnel administratif, technique et professionnel du transport en commun voted in favour of a new contract. 

But negotiations are continuing with the other three unions.

Frenette said the Syndicat du transport de Montréal is ready to negotiate all summer if necessary. 

“We’ll be at the bargaining table every day,” he said. 

Mayor Valérie Plante said she has heard negotiations are going quite well. 

“On both sides, there’s a lot of openness to resolve this as fast as possible, as best as possible,” she said. 

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