As you know by now, a lockout has been imposed on Transit workers by the City. I know this is very disruptive and in some cases quite devastating for residents. For those of you who are directly impacted, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience this is causing you and your families. I hope the information below provides some useful context for this situation. I apologize in advance for the length of this post: there is a lot of information to get through here.
The lockout, which took effect Saturday evening, will remain in place until further notice. Access Transit is not affected during the lockout and will continue to function normally. For people who rely on Transit and would like to explore ride-sharing options, please check here. For students and employees at the University of Saskatchewan, visit this page for information on transportation alternatives, check here. We intend to issue refunds for bus passes, but the details of how this will work have not yet been confirmed. Please watch the city website for updates or call 306-975-3100.
Much of the current stalemate between the City and ATU relates to the pension plan. This is a complex and technical debate, and I’ll do my best to explain the circumstances succinctly.
The most recent valuation of the pension plan was conducted in 2012 and was filed with the Pension Superintendent by the Board of Trustees. This valuation showed a deficit in the plan of about $6.7 Million. This valuation was conducted by AON, which is the independent plan actuary. In response to this valuation, the pension superintendent (who oversees all pension plans in Saskatchewan) has issued a letter to the City instructing us to begin making special payments of $90,000 per month in order to address this shortage.
This year the City bargained with all 9 civic unions in order to reach consensus about the pension changes that are necessary to keep the pension plan in good stead with the Pension Superintendent. These changes would allow the City to avoid paying the $90,000 per month by improving the sustainability of the plan. 8 of the 9 civic unions agreed to the proposed changes, but ATU did not. As a result, City Council passed a bylaw yesterday amending the plan to make these changes. It’s regrettable that this did not take place at the bargaining table, but these changes were necessary to a) safeguard the fiscal health of the city, and b) ensure fair treatment to the other 8 unions who had agreed to the proposed changes. (It’s important to note that the changes do not affect the overall design of the plan, which is a defined benefit plan and will remain so.)
The City’s last offer to ATU was for a 10% raise over 4 years, and all of the other 8 civic unions have already agreed to this offer. ATU’s most recent counter-offer was a 22.5% raise over 5 years, which at more than double the package agreed to by all other civic workers would represent an unfair deal for many civic employees. If you’re interested in seeing how the latest offer stacks up against national comparisons, you can find that here.
The City is interested in getting back to the bargaining table as soon as possible to work towards a contract with ATU, and I’m hopeful that a mutually agreeable solution will be reached quickly. I feel strongly that a reliable, convenient, and comfortable Transit system is essential for Saskatoon in order to be an efficient and liveable City, and we intend to implement a Bus Rapid Transit system in order to transform our current system into one that works for a growing community. I know that resolving the current labour dispute is an important component of building this system, and we will need to make additional investments in Transit in order to make this happen. I look forward to making these improvements with input from residents. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments about any of the above.