Toronto transit workers went on strike late on Friday night after voting against a tentative contract agreement, a surprise development that paralysed public transportation in Canada's biggest city.
Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union voted against the tentative agreement reached last weekend with the Toronto Transit Commission, rejecting the advice of union leaders who had recommended members accept the three-year deal, which included annual three percent wage increases.
Union head Bob Kinnear said on Friday that organizers decided not to give early warning of a walkout to protect workers before they left their jobs.
"We have assessed the situation and decided that we will not expose our members to the dangers of assaults from angry and irrational members of the public," Kinnear said.
He said union members received threats and abuse from passengers last weekend over the possibility of a strike when the agreement was being negotiated.
About 1.4 million riders use TTC buses, streetcars and subways every day. Toronto Mayor David Miller called the strike "unacceptable and irresponsible," saying the union had broken its promise of 48 hours notice.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the government would introduce back-to-work legislation. The Ontario government asked the two sides to return to the bargaining table on Saturday afternoon.
The strike upset commuters, who thought the prospect of a stoppage had come and gone with the tentative agreement. The last-minute deal was forged last Sunday, just hours before the union's nearly 9,000 workers were ready to walk off the job.
"Wonderful," was the reaction of security guard Sean Patenaude as he waited in vain for a street car.
Source: Shanghai Daily/Agencies