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Buses to stop rolling as GRT workers opt to go on strike

Transit users in the region, including GRT route 21 to Elmira, will have to find alternatives starting Monday, as unionized workers plan to walk off the job.

Having rejected a tentative deal with the Region of Waterloo, the 644 members of Unifor Local 4304 – operators, dispatchers, fleet mechanics and service attendants – opted for strike action, effective at 5 a.m. Apr. 3.

The proposed deal included a wage increase of six per cent over three years, as well as a number of adjustments to employee benefits.

A tentative deal was reached between the region and union just after the strike deadline on Mar. 20, but members rejected it. Workers had voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike ahead of the tentative deal, and now they are following through.

“I’m surprised and disappointed at this outcome,” said Mike Murray, the region’s chief administrative officer, said in a statement Thursday night. “We negotiated an agreement in good faith that the Unifor bargaining committee unanimously recommended that their members accept. We are disappointed that they have rejected it.”

GRT riders, including those on route 21 from Elmira to Conestoga Mall, will be without regular service. The region says that rides through MobilityPLUS for pre-scheduled dialysis will be maintained the best they can, but scheduled trips for work, medical appointments and recreation will be cancelled. Kiwanis transit services will remain on the roads.

Greyhound, GO bus and Coach Canada trips will not be affected for the region’s customers, with pick-ups at GRT stops in the tri-cities maintained. Tickets will be sold on the buses, rather than through a ticket agent.

For those who have already purchased tickets and passes for the GRT services, the pre-purchased tickets can be used as soon as service resumes. There are no expiry dates.

The region and Unifor Local 4304 will be heading back to the table to renegotiate the tentative agreement.

“The region remains prepared to meet with the union to get the buses back on the road and to reach a resolution that is fair to employees and regional taxpayers,” the region said in a statement Thursday night.

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