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A streetcar on Toronto's St. Clair LRT. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
A streetcar on Toronto's St. Clair LRT. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

TTC declared essential service, union chief says won't be 'bullied' by Toronto Add to ...

The union leader of Canada largest public transit system put Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on notice on Wednesday that he will not be "bullied around" just moments after his members lost their right to strike.

The Ontario government passed new legislation declaring the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service and banning its workers from walking off the job. Bill 150 passed third and final reading on Wednesday, with 68 MPPs voting in favour and nine opposing it.

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"They better not think that they can push us around because we don't have the right to strike," Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, told reporters at the legislature. "If they think they are going to push us into a corner, I assure, I promise you, that we will come out swinging in defence of our members."

Mr. Kinnear said Toronto's right-leaning mayor is more interested in union busting than in talking to workers about how to make North America's third-largest transit system operate more efficiently.

"I'm being very, very clear," said Mr. Kinnear, who simultaneously appeared to be threatening Mr. Ford while saying he is not looking for "conflict" and wants to work with the city.

"What we are simply saying is we will not be bullied around and we want to alleviate any perception by this administration in the City of Toronto that they can bully us around because of this legislation."

The legislation is not about saving money - declaring the TTC an essential service is widely expected to cost the city more in the long run. Ontario Labour Minister Charles Sousa stressed that the legislation is expressly designed for the unique and critical role the transit system plays in the lives of Torontonians.

"This is not about Toronto City Council," Mr. Sousa told reporters. "It's not about the union leadership and its certainly not about me. Its about the 1.5 million riders who depend upon the TTC [every day]"

The legislation passed just one day before contract talks between some TTC unionized groups and the city expire.

It is the first time the McGuinty government has stripped unionized workers of their right to walk a picket line during its seven-and-a-half years in power. Labour leaders have accused the government of doing Mr. Ford's "dirty work." It was the Mayor who asked the province to introduce the legislation.

The New Democrats opposed the legislation, but they have only 10 of the 107 seats in the legislature.

"I think it will cause more strife within the TTC," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, adding that the best way to get a good collective bargaining agreement is at the negotiating table.

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