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The TTC's union said there are still details to work out before it presents a contract proposal to its members, but the 'framework agreement' reached with the TTC prevented a strike on Friday morning.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Toronto commuters were spared a transit shutdown after the TTC and its main union reached a last-minute tentative agreement, heading off a Friday strike that would have disrupted travel for millions of people.

The Toronto Transit Commission and its union announced late Thursday night what they described as a “framework agreement” after a contentious round of negotiations that the union said focused on job security, benefits and wages.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 said some details still need to be worked out before it could present a contract proposal to its approximately 12,000 members. The deal will also need to be approved by the TTC board. No details about the agreement were released.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow praised the TTC and ATU 113 for reaching a deal but said she could not speak to its terms before union members have had a chance to vote on it.

Asked how the cost of the agreement would fit into the fiscal framework of the cash-strapped city, Ms. Chow noted that money was set aside in the annual budget in light of this being a year several unions would be seeking new deals.

“I always only spend money that we can afford,” she told reporters on Friday. “It was important when we approved the 2024 budget, in February, that we made an estimate as to how much these negotiations would cost, and of course that has been part of the negotiation.”

The TTC union has not had a legal strike since 2008. Provincial legislation passed by then Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty in 2011 declared TTC workers essential and stripped them of their right to withhold labour. They regained that right last year.

A strike would have happened against a much different backdrop than in 2008. Roads are more badly clogged, even when transit is operating. Many people also have the ability to work from home, as they did during the pandemic.

Still, the TTC remains crucial for huge numbers of residents and carries about 1.4 million passengers on a typical weekday. While the agency has not yet regained the full ridership lost during the pandemic it has been rebuilding steadily, and a work stoppage could have hampered its recovery.

Negotiations between the TTC and its union went almost to the midnight deadline, with a deal announced by the union at 11:39 p.m. Thursday night.

“We asked the TTC for assurance on job security, for protections on contracting out our jobs, for improvement in benefits for active members and pensioners,” ATU 113 said in a statement. “We finally saw action on these critical issues.”

City councillor Jamaal Myers, chair of the TTC, said he would take the provisional agreement to the next board meeting for approval. “Most importantly, this deal will keep Toronto moving,” he said in an overnight statement.

With a report from Jeff Gray

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