Transit Strike - A York Regional Embarrassment

  Good morning Vietnaaaaam! This famous line was uttered of course from Robin Williams' character in the movie of the same name which was based on a real person's story, took place in war times, and was recognised by the soldiers and personnel as the signal that they were about to be put at ease through the power of laughter - via a radio show. This comedy formatted show acted to keep spirits raised during a time that was extremely distressing and stressful. I think that is what is needed right now, especially for those who have been handcuffed by the York Region Transit Strike - which is now Canada's 2nd longest in history. To that end, TP produced a short spoof called Depressing Country Hits a mock commercial for a record album that uses the recurring theme of the transit strike in it. It's design is to make you laugh.

P.A.C.C. and the C.B.C. reported on poverty and transit issues

  To date it seems nothing P.A.C.C. or anyone has done or said has had any influence on ending this strike. We've done our usual mix of addressing (and embarrassing) politicians, councils, approaching other groups and bus drivers / union reps as well as our own online media campaign to create awareness and attempted to solicit more attention from the mainstream news media - which we think is covering it far too little - therefore keeping minimal pressure on to resolve it.

  In addition my letters to the Editor of the local (York Region Media Group) papers including the Era Banner go unpublished - even though they quote or use me/us when it suits which works both ways but we are the established voice for those on low or no incomes in York Region and recent host group for the most in-depth look at the state of York Region's social services, programs and safety net systems in the area's history via a social audit. The resulting report was adopted for recommendations by the Regional Council as well, and this 6 months to produce audit was a significant achievement admired and widely respected across Ontario, but has gone relatively unnoticed and unused here.

  As no one seems to be stepping forward to help end this strike which has now expanded to become a crisis maker for many, we feel P.A.C.C.'s experience and ability to connect people from diverse backgrounds and positions gives us a unique ability to get parties communicating, and feel we could negotiate a fair end to this for all parties involved.Uniquely as well, PACC supports the drivers' rights to a living wage and reasonable working conditions but also the rights for those riders who've had no choice and whose extreme users are most affected.
  P.A.C.C.'s Letters to the Editor never get published!
I thought I'd print one of my recent letters to the Editor that they never publish, and if they do they change, as it's purpose was / is to bring more attention to the seriousness of this transit strike to more people.
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  Dear Editor,

  I am absolutely outraged by the lack of concern or action on the part of our York Region Council and Chair, Bill Fisch, in regards to the transit strike.

  Regional council is made up of all the elected mayors and regional councilors who are all seemingly directed in council by a chairperson who is not elected. This chair has previously stamped an emphatic no to arbitration which would have ended this madness long ago and allowed those who had no choice in this matter - who have missed out on jobs, work, school, doctor visits, hospitals visits, medications, groceries, been evicted or in process of, and some youth now with their future post secondary school plans on hold having been unable to work over xmas or in some cases likely lost forever - and a number that simply won’t ever get back on track.What about those in isolated communities like Mulock Village W of Bathurst St. which also contains some special needs and mental health and other residents who already have little access to much including high schools without a town bus, as the school board refuses to bus them?

  People in wheelchairs are affected too. Do you think they only need to go out once a week as per their "book a week ahead" policy? Get real! Many have numerous worker, therapist, and doctor, etc appointments on differing days, times and locations - and those without someone to shovel their driveways from a charity source, may be isolated even more. that's a service that could be considered for regional coverage or maybe our exclusive service (in Y.R.) the “Talk-2-One” the 24 hour / 7days week messaging system, through which we have literally placed a number of Y.R. homeless people into jobs and homes thereby lowering the burden on the public - and we've only had 10 contact numbers to give out - which we had to negotiate free from the company to show the region it's effectiveness. Placing just two people pays for it for a year for thousands of the free contact # placements, something that can be monitored, and valuable rare Y.R. data also collected, yet no one calls us. Those are the types of social service programs our dear council should have been spending your G.T.A. pooling dollars on instead of balancing its last two budgets on the backs of them. Those dollars were fought for by 110 groups because Y.Regioners claimed we needed them for our own services, but thus far this smug group has done little but pay lip service.

  The strike is no different, as they save $500,000 per week on the backs of those people who have to rely on transit. Do you really think offering free service for a month when it resumes, as I saw on the agenda at the last council meeting when I made a deposition to council to plead with them to end it, will suffice for what they’ve done? And where is the media outrage in this and coverage!

  Make no mistake this is affecting many - from the 60 year old lady who cannot get to work and who will never get her job back now, to the employer who will think twice about hiring someone relying on transit, to the youth, to the 44 year old male who is the statistical average newest homeless person.

  I’d be happy to sit in and negotiate a deal if this council and its unelected leader don’t have stomach for it. I have training and a certificate in group facilitation, and as well hosted,  co-Convened and co-Authored York Region’s only ever social audit in it’s history not long ago, called "Behind The Masks", which the region itself through council adopted recommendations from. Such an audit had to cover input from a diverse group of people experiencing poverty from across York Region – which we could replace with riders – and included politicians, social workers, and social activists, even the Y.R. United Way's Danieli Zanotti was a moderator, all working together with the final product being heavily referenced in The Ontario- wide version put out by interfaith group I.S.A.R.C.. To date I’ve seen no recommendations implemented and received no invites to offer consultation or on how to collect affective data whilst peoples dignity is kept intact, or offers to assist via our real solutions ideas. Besides I can't do any worse than what is being done right now.

  I also got a standing ovation from the union members in council chambers when proposing that council leave their cars at home for the duration to speed up the process - so they like us - although the motion was declined. Unlike some of your Writers and Columnists, I’ve actually spoken to the union guys, and they are not asking for parity which is so commonly reported - having been poisoned initially by a quote from Chair Fisch - but at least we'd go in baring facts, and neutral, as our mandate dictates us to be.

Tom Pearson
Chairman, Poverty Action for Change Coalition

2 Response to "Transit Strike - A York Regional Embarrassment"

  1. Anonymous January 11, 2012 at 6:53 PM
    How does this make sense? As of January 2012,the YRT fare has been increased by 25 cents, yet we have no bus service for how many weeks now? How can people be forced to pay for an increase in service when there is no service? And what about the bus shelters? Last year the platforms were installed, you know the bottom half? What happened to the top half? Oh' I know we only got half the service which is better than no service' right? How much is this going to cost us? YRT can not be compared to TTC. They can not even come close to the services that TTC offers. Why should they get paid the same? To all the bus drivers of York Region Transit, if you want to get paid more and have more benefits... GET A JOB AT TTC!!!!!!!!

    N. Loyst
  2. PACC January 11, 2012 at 9:52 PM
    Good points Aurora. I've always had a hard time swallowing the fact that they charge more for the YRT than TTC, which gives far better and more frequent service. Just bad management all round..the fare hike was quietly budgeted in long ago by Council (again) and they bungled delaying any hike - or were they arrogantly ignoring any bad pr fallout..

    For the record the YRT drivers aren't asking for parity with the TTC - they keep alluding to that in our media but if you read my blogs and ask the actual parties you find out the truth. They do expect a living wage yes but one driver I spoke with for example gets only a 10 minute break in a 9 hour shift. How could one argue with that? Well that's what was expected of him. On the other hand it has crippled some people financially who've had no choice in this mess and further isolated and marginalized others.

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