Bob Kinnear, the embattled leader of the Toronto Transit Commission's largest union who was stripped of his job and then reinstated by court order last month, is stepping down from his post, the union says.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 has been rattled by infighting after Mr. Kinnear tried to lead a movement to break away from the U.S.-based ATU parent union and convince his members to join Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union.
Mr. Kinnear, the elected president of Local 113 since 2004, called for the Canadian Labour Congress to investigate his claims that the ATU had done too little to help its largest Canadian affiliate as it battled with the TTC over drug testing and other issues.
Last month, the ATU's international parent put Local 113 under the control of a trustee and tossed Mr. Kinnear out, accusing him of disloyalty. He was later reinstated by a court injunction. But much of the local's executive board remained loyal to the ATU and opposed Mr. Kinnear's moves.
Both sides have spent weeks hurling accusations at each other. Manny Sforza, the ATU vice-president put in charge while Mr. Kinnear was suspended, accused him of engaging in a "conspiracy" with Unifor and of "plotting in secret." Mr. Kinnear claimed the ATU had forced executive board members to sign "loyalty oaths" and was engaging in intimidation.
In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the ATU said the executive board had accepted Mr. Kinnear's resignation, effective immediately. It also said the CLC investigation he initiated had ended and that the "leadership of the union had been restored under the direction" of the executive board. Mr. Kinnear could not immediately be reached.
In an interview, Local 113 secretary-treasurer Kevin Morton, a critic of Mr. Kinnear, said the Local 113 president had tendered his resignation on Thursday and had agreed to instruct the CLC to cease its investigation. Mr. Morton also said Mr. Kinnear had agreed to drop his legal challenges against the union, which had resulted in the injunction that saw him reinstated. Mr. Morton said that Mr. Kinnear will take banked holidays before officially retiring in July.
A membership meeting is scheduled for Sunday, but Mr. Morton said the union will not allow a vote by members on whether to join Unifor: "Over my dead body. It wouldn't even come to the floor."
Mr. Morton said the union will hold elections for vacant executive seats and a new president eventually. But first, he said, it will conduct an investigation that could see other board members found to have worked with Mr. Kinnear on his move to defy the ATU removed. He also said he wanted Unifor and the CLC taken to task for attempting to raid Local 113 for members.
"This bad movie is now over," Mr. Morton said. "But now we move forward."
Larry Hanley, the president of the Silver Spring, Md.-based ATU International – with whom Mr. Kinnear was said to have a strained relationship – issued a statement welcoming the resignation, calling it a victory of "union democracy and international solidarity."
Mr. Hanley went on to launch an attack on Unifor and the CLC for their role in what he called a "traumatizing chapter" for the labour movement. ATU officials produced e-mails last month suggesting Mr. Kinnear and his supporters had secretly co-ordinated with Unifor officials on their move to take their dispute before the CLC.
"We denounce the actions of Unifor president Jerry Dias, and CLC president Hassan Yussuff for his violations of the CLC constitution and taking sides in the struggle," Mr. Hanley's statement reads.
Just days after Local 113's infighting bubbled into the open and Mr. Kinnear was deposed, he appeared alongside Mr. Dias at a news conference where the Unifor leader offered his support, saying Canadian workers should have the right to choose to join a Canadian union.
Mr. Kinnear and Mr. Dias claimed a move last year by Mr. Hanley and his supporters to defeat Mr. Kinnear's ascension to the role of ATU international vice-president for Canada – a role previously held by Mr. Kinnear's own father, Larry Kinnear – had alienated some Canadian ATU members.