Gatineau bus drivers vote for strike mandate

Employees of Gatineau’s public transportation service have voted in overwhelming favour of a strike mandate.

On Sunday, employees of La Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO), including drivers and maintenance staff, voted 98.3 per cent in favour.

The decision means the union will have the authority to call for job action after 60 days, including a strike. The union would still be required to give 72 hours notice. Syndicat Uni du Transport local 591, represents 557 employees.

In a statement on the STO website, which is only available in French, the organization said it wants to reassure customers that negotiations are continuing in December.

The strike mandate, reads the statement, is part of the negotiating process and does not mean a winter strike is inevitable.

The Canadian Council on Labour Relations Board will be making a decision mid-December on whether the bus service is an “essential service.” The hearing will take place Dec. 19-21.

If the council decides the buses are an essential service, drivers and maintenance staff will not be able to walk off the job.

Drivers and maintenance employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2014. The union told La Presse that the main issues are working hours and wages.

In September, some drivers began protesting by wearing bright yellow shirts, with a message demanding a fair contract. In response, STO sent out warnings and threatened unpaid, one-day suspensions to participating employees citing their mandatory uniform policy.

This story orginally appeared in Metro News.