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The Globe and Mail

Ousted TTC union head predicts ‘labour strife’

Bob Kinnear

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The ousted president of the main TTC union is fighting back, claiming intimidation and saying that members should be given a direct voice in the future of their local.

Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union – representing about 10,000 employees of the Toronto Transit Commission – was put under trusteeship last week by the ATU, its international parent union. The move pushed out then president Bob Kinnear and 16 other top executives.

Mr. Kinnear called it an undemocratic takeover of the local by foreigners and launched a court battle, with a hearing expected within two weeks. He warned Monday that there may be "labour strife," as members may defect to other unions, a shift he is trying to rally support for, saying that they need better representation than the ATU is capable of.

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Earlier Monday, though, the new leadership of the local released a statement saying that 72 per cent of shop stewards supported them. And some of the ousted leaders were later allowed to regain their positions, splitting the dissidents.

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The power struggle burst into the open on Friday, after the local 113, under Mr. Kinnear, approached the Canadian Labour Congress with unhappiness about how they were being treated by the international Amalgamated Transit Union.

The ATU claims the move ran afoul of its rules about "disaffiliation," provoking a battle over the local's headquarters and $10-million in assets. The local was put under the trusteeship of Manny Sforza, of rival of Mr. Kinnear's.

Mr. Kinnear, who remains on the outside, alleged to the media Monday that supporters of the new leadership were being coerced into doing so. This has been rejected by the new leadership, and Mr. Kinnear offered no proof for the allegation.

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"By putting me out on the street, cutting off my phones, it scares the membership," he told reporters at city hall.

"We have an orderly, democratic process that we could have gone through. Now it looks like we're going to have a fight. And I expect the Canadian labour movement to stand behind us and take on this oppressive American-based union."

He predicted battles within the local, noting that the Canadian Labour Congress had lifted its prohibition against raiding the local for members. This raises the prospect of some of the members ending up in other unions, diluting the bargaining power of the TTC employees.

The local is the biggest representing TTC employees and is midway through a four-year contract. The TTC has said that they were working to ensure that this union power struggle had no impact on service, adding that the collective agreements remain in place.

The TTC was deemed an essential service in 2011 by then-premier Dalton McGuinty and cannot strike. But there continues to be friction between the union and management. They have clashed over the TTC's drug-and-alcohol random-testing policy and the possibility that elements of the city's transit system could be privatized.

With a report from Jeff Gray

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