Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

The union has been without a deal for months. This is also the first time in more than a decade that they can strike, after having that right removed by the province and then re-instated by the courts.Abhijit Alka Anil/The Globe and Mail

Toronto’s public transit system will continue to operate normally after the TTC and its main union reached a deal to avert a strike.

The Toronto Transit Commission and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 announced what they described as a tentative “framework settlement” ahead of a midnight deadline that would have shut down Canada’s largest transit system and left millions who use Toronto’s network of buses, subways and streetcars scrambling to find alternate ways to navigate the city,

The union issued a statement that said there are still details to work out to reach “a fair and reasonable contract” that it could recommend to its members.

“Our demands have been reasonable,” the statement said. “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. Today we finally saw action on these critical issues.”

TTC CEO Rick Leary welcomed the news.

“This is a fair settlement that is affordable for the TTC and respectful of the important work the 11,500 members of ATU Local 113 do every day to keep our system safe and our service reliable,” Mr. Leary said in a statement.

The deal’s terms were not released and it must still be voted on by union members and the TTC’s board.

The last-minute agreement follows a contentious round of negotiations that the union said focused on jobs security, benefits and wages.

The TTC has been rebuilding ridership lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and carries 1.4 million passengers on a typical weekday.

Marvin Alfred, president of ATU Local 113, had struck a negative tone earlier on Thursday, warning that he was not seeing an offered deal that he could take to his members. TTC spokesman Stuart Green acknowledged that there were some sticking points at the table, but said that “things are still very much on track.”

The union has been without a deal for months. They have not gone on strike for more than a decade, but for most of that time they were legally prevented from doing so.

In provincial legislation passed by then-Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty in 2011, TTC workers were declared essential and stripped of their right to strike, a move supported by Mr. Ford at the time when he was a Toronto city councillor and his brother Rob, who was mayor.

However, the legal ground on the right to strike in Canada has shifted since a 2015 Supreme Court ruling on a dispute involving the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, which reversed previous decisions and recognized the right to strike in the Charter of Rights and Freedom’s guarantee of freedom of association.

Last year, an Ontario Superior Court judge citing the Saskatchewan case struck down the law declaring that TTC workers were essential as unconstitutional, a decision upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal last month.

During the last TTC strike, in 2008, the provincial government acted in just two days. In April of that year, TTC rank-and-file workers rejected a contract recommended by their union leadership. Their leader at the time, Bob Kinnear, then called a strike without providing a promised 48-hour notice, shutting the system down at 12:01 a.m. on a Saturday morning and leaving thousands of clubgoers stranded in the city’s entertainment district.

By the following Sunday, however, with the support of all political parties at Queen’s Park, MPPs agreed in just half-an-hour to order the union back on the job and put the labour dispute before an arbitrator. The job action came just two years after the union’s 2006 illegal “wildcat” strike, which prompted that Ontario Labour Relations Board to issue a back-to-work order.

In 1999, the union went out for a two-day strike. In 1991, it walked off the job for eight days.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe