President of Local 615 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Darcy Pederson, is calling upon the Moe government to give priority vaccine access to transit workers as the government announced its next phase of vaccine rollouts last week. They once again failed to include transit workers. 

Transit professionals are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to the COVID-19 virus as a result of their interaction with millions of riders per day. The high volume of interaction has led to more than 3500 ATU transit workers being infected in both Canada and the US. 

“Transit workers are responsible for moving our country’s front line health care workers, grocery store clerks and many other essential workers,” said President Pederson. “This is why it is crucial to prioritize transit professionals to ensure safe, reliable service.” 

Public transit is essential to all residents of Saskatoon. An outbreak among transit agencies could have devastating consequences for our most vulnerable communities. Although many cities have implemented mandatory use of face coverings from coast to coast, there has been little to no concrete enforcement of rules put in place to protect those in the transit industry. Since the start of the pandemic, ATU Canada has been advocating for safety barriers, social distancing, rear-door loading and other measures meant to hinder the spread of the virus for our 34,000 transit professionals as well as transit workers everywhere.  

“Giving transit workers safe working conditions during a global pandemic includes priority vaccines access,” said Pederson. “This measure is a necessary and essential step that cannot be overlooked and we are prepared to assist both the municipal and provincial government to ensure the delivery of the vaccine to all transit professionals.” 


Saskatoon Transit Operator Assaulted

February 28th 2020

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615 is calling for changes after a Saskatoon bus driver was assaulted while on the job.

The operator, was attacked Thursday evening on 33rd Street and Ave B, where 5 youths bear sprayed and spat on the bus operator, shortly after the police arrived and one officer was bear sprayed.

The victims received medical attention while 5 suspects were arrested by Saskatoon police.

Atu Local 615 President Darcy Pederson is calling for operator shields and more security on the buses and in the bus terminals to protect our members and the public from assaults like this, a lack of a security presence over last few years in the downtown terminal and on the buses has resulted in an increase in crime and a bus terminal that our members don’t feel safe in.

“Sadly, violence against passengers and operators is so commonplace,” “In the last four years, we have seen a fatal stabbing in Winnipeg against an operator; a fatal stabbing in Tampa, Florida; a stabbing in Edmonton against an operator; and over 4,000 sexual assaults against passengers.”

This is a national crisis and it needs to be addressed by employers across Canada and the United States.

Let’s be leaders and start by addressing it here in Saskatoon.

Today We Remember Cliff White

Today we are remembering the tragic accident that happened at the Saskatoon Transit Bus Barns November 10th 1997, 20 years ago that took Cliff Whites life. We all need to remember this tragedy as a reminder that safety is of the utmost importance for our members and all workers everywhere.

Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there. I did not die.

In response to a recent article published in the Sheaf titled Saskatoon Transit System is Failing its Riders, written by Meagan Kernaghan, Oct 13, 2017

I provide the following facts and opinions on behalf of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615.  
Firstly, ATU 615 members agree with the writer with respect to routes and times are arbitrary. Our members have and continue to raise scheduling and overcrowding full busses to our employer, Saskatoon Transit in an effort to ensure our schedules are realistic to maintain and enough capacity to transport passengers in a safe reliable manner. Our operators are constantly reminded and expected to make every effort to maintain schedule but not at the expense of risking safety or breaking traffic laws. If transit riders took the writers advice and contacted Council and left messages at they would be speaking directly to the people responsible and in a position to make change. Somehow the writer has misconstrued the fact that the union is held responsible for designing the schedule and accountable when the system fails to meet the needs of transit riders.

ATU members continue to come to work diligently and many work overtime hours in all areas, in an effort to keep the system running. To make claim that absenteeism is a cause for an inadequate bus system is totally false. Many of our members work longer hours in an attempt to ensure enough busses are available to provide the service expected. Perhaps the writer should ask the question of the Maintenance Manager why the need to cancel the overload or extra busses scheduled because of lack of available equipment. Perhaps the writer should ask the Route Planning Department Manager why the busses regularly run behind schedule on a daily basis and what steps are being taken to remedy this. With respect I disagree with the writer’s comment that suggests transit operators do not deal with any more exposure to people than other professions. Cramming 80-90 people in a 40 foot bus standing shoulder to shoulder for 15-20 minutes or perhaps longer does not remotely compare to customer service, retail, health care or education professions. Several studies have proven the nature of bus operators work translates to higher risk of all major illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, coronary, back problems, etc. On a daily basis, transit operators deal with verbal assaults, threats, etc. PTSD is not uncommon and physical assaults including operators spat on continues to occur even more frequently. Despite having said that, our average medical leave for all union members in 2016 was 68hrs per year, well below Regina and other transit properties elsewhere. For the writer to suggest busses are unsafe and/or operators are not always sick when they call in is a puzzling statement. The nature of our work and the fact that we interact with up to 500 people on a daily basis, simply increases risk of illness. Would you as a transit rider want your operator coughing and sneezing on you as you enter the bus spreading germs or would you prefer that your operator was in good health in order to operate the bus safely? In the event our employer suspects misuse of sick leave ,they have the ability to seek doctors notes and most certainly do not need to spend additional taxpayer dollars by hiring an outside company to do the work ,when our internal transit staff have dealt with this for over a hundred years.

ATU unions across North America are currently campaigning transit employers (including Saskatoon) and bus manufacturers, politicians in an effort to improve our workstations, making a healthier, safer ,work environment. Improving shift schedules , route schedules with sufficient time for necessity breaks and reliable service, drivers shields for protection, less blind spots in drivers area ,better heater and cooling systems are all necessary to help reduce illness and in effect translate to less absenteeism and healthier operators.

I agree with the writer when she states to contact the people if you want to change and address the issues affecting our transit system. I assure you that our union members are not the reason your system is not meeting your expectations. We also strive for what the writer is striving for. A safe, reliable transit system that meets or exceeds expectations. Quoting the comment “nothing ever changes without your drive to make it so” I couldn’t agree more.

If the writer is suggesting that the union should have the sole responsibility of improving the system, then perhaps she is on to something.

Jim Yakubowski,

President/Business Agent ATU 615 Saskatoon

Provincial Budget Funding Impact

The executive board will be discussing this matter internally and with our membership prior to making any formal statement. Our employer has given notice of intent to potentially contract out some of the work currently carried out by our members, and we have not yet met to exchange proposals. There are currently no dates set for ATU to bargain at this time.

Press Release November 24th 2016 Re: Absenteeism

Today Jim McDonald did a press release stating that “12 operators have called in sick and because of ATU Job Action the City had to make changes to regularly scheduled routes” 

ATU has not expanded its Job Action beyond Work To Rule and A Ban On Overtime.

ATU has not suggested anyone book sick to intentionally disrupt service.

Our operators are human and it is currently cold and flu season, our operators are exposed to higher than normal amounts of people in a confined area for extended periods and they get sick it happens.

If an operator is sick they have the ability under the collective agreement to book sick and get themselves healthy.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615

What You Need To Know About This Contract Dispute

It’s time to end this dispute!

We need a vibrant transit service that will continue to attract people to use the system and rely on it as a viable method of transportation. However, ongoing labour disputes have affected everyone including our members who provide this service. ATU 615 has always stated that we will handle negotiations in a way that will have the smallest impact on the citizens of Saskatoon and union members. Over the past four years, we’ve done that to the best of our ability. However, given the city’s inflexible stance, we have no other alternative but to take job action by way of work-to-rule and a ban on overtime.

There is a solution: third party arbitration.

We believe our differences can be resolved by calling on a non-partisan panel to determine if the city has the legal right to make changes to our pension plan without our consent. Back in April, 2016, both the city and the union made arguments before an arbitration panel regarding the legality of pension changes imposed by the city. Since then, we’ve been waiting for a ruling from the panel and hope they will send down their decision soon.

We’ve presented to the city what we believe is a fair and equitable proposal that will bring closure to this dispute; one that we’re confident ATU 615 members are willing to accept.  

Our proposal is simple:

1) If the ruling favours the city, ATU 615 will accept the arbitrator’s decision and sign the city’s offer.

2) If, however, the ruling favours the union, then we expect the city to sign the union’s agreement.

 Then why don’t we have deal yet?

If the city can resolve this four year dispute by simply adhering to the legal decision of the arbitration panel, then why the deadlock? While there is no way of knowing with any certainty which way the panel will rule, it could very well be that the city doesn’t feel confident that the arbitration decision will be in their favour. Their recent push for us to sign their deal indicates an urgency on their part to get us to accept their offer before the ruling takes place. A ruling in favour of the union would be an embarrassment the city most likely wishes to avoid.

 What you can do to help end this stalemate.

3) Call Mayor Charlie Clark or your city councillor and tell them that you are tired of this labour dispute. 

4) Ask them to separate the pension issue from rest of the contract. We suggested this to the city, but they rejected the idea and insist that we accept their offer as a package deal. Ask them to reconsider. Let’s table pension discussions for when a new round of contact negotiations begin in 2017. 

5) Demand a change in the way the negotiations are handled in order to quickly bring this dispute to a an end. Mayor Clark made ‘change’ the thrust of his election campaign. Now that he’s been elected, it’s time to claim that change and hold him to his word.


Thank you!

With your support, we can resolve this issue once and for all. Please join us in our efforts for a fair and equitable agreement and help us restore fast, courteous and dependable bus service. Thank you for your time and patience. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615