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


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

ATU Local 615 Leadership Elections

November 16th 2016 The Nomination Meeting for Atu Local 615 Elections Was HeldThis Is The Final List.

The Election Will Take Place On December 12th 2016

Brother Jim Yakubowski Acclaimed
Vice President

Brother Garry Howard 

BrotherTyson Materi
Financial Secretary/Treasurer

Brother Darcy Pederson Acclaimed
Recording Secretary

Sister Heather Beck

Brother Al Lim 
Operations Rep 2 Positions

Brother Ferencs Kovacs

Brother Scott Morrison 

Brother Adrien Piche
Maintenance Rep 2 Positions

Sister Janet Sloan Acclaimed
Access Transit Rep 1 Position

Brother Anthony Arthurs 

Sister Jessica Green
OH&S Rep 4 Positions Total: 1 Access 1 Maintenance 1 Operations 1 At Large and 1 Must Be The Opposite Gender

Brother Garry Howard Acclaimed

Brother Tyson Materi Acclaimed

Brother Scott Morrison Acclaimed
Accident Adjudicator 1 Position

Brother Aaron Houk

Brother Gord Kapeller

Sister Sherri Ziegler
Audit Committee 3 Positions

Brother Ferencs Kovacs Acclaimed

Brother Adrien Piche Acclaimed
An election will be held for the third position:
Brother Stevie Hopkins

Sister Deb Knapik Muzyka

Brother Cliff Olynyk

Brother Layne Sillito

Sister Sandy Wright



NOVEMBER 13, 2016


The city released their version on Facts on Transit Negotiations. I have attached a copy of their document for your ability to reference their statements.


1. If the transit union accepts the City’s deal is there back pay? Both our proposal and the cities indicate that back pay is payable.


2. Will I get this back pay all at once? Our proposal is that any member that worked any part of the timeframe from Jan. 1 ,2013 to current is entitled to back pay and it would be paid all at once.


3. The city decided not to pay the workers for the last two weeks of the illegal lockout. That is correct. The matter is before the courts and a decision is expected soon on whether the current ruling from the labor board remains intact or whether the courts will order a new labor board hearing on the matter.


4. Can the city force a vote on this offer? The city has stated that they themselves cannot. The minister or the employees may require a vote. Our membership has spoken to this issue at special meetings indicating by over 90% that they are not wanting to vote on the offer that included signing the employers pension agreement in principle under their terms.


5. I have heard the city is making wholesale changes to the pension plan. Does this mean I am going to lose my pension? Under the city proposal they are shifting liabilities and risk from the city to the members. There are two changes that enable them to transfer this risk. It is because of the language that allows the city to cap their contributions, and also a dispute resolution clause that simply states in the event the parties are unable to agree on plan changes, then a third party would determine which future service benefits would be cut, to ensure the plan could be supported within 9% funding from both parties. This potential cutting of future service benefits would also include any special payments the city would normally be required to make. Make no mistake. This is an extreme design change from what we have had in place since 1964. The city is saying don’t worry about this wording. We will still continue to bargain, if and when we get to this point. We do know that we will continue to bargain, but all they simply will be telling the group of us is that we signed this deal and have agreed to all the terms and conditions. Hence the dispute resolution clause will be invoked and a third party will tell us what benefits to reduce, or potentially the members of the plan would pay more, and not necessarily would the city have to contribute more ,because their rates are capped. Our Agreement in principle states that in the event we get to the point that we agree changes are necessary in the future, then we will simply bargain these changes as we have done since 1964. We would not be subjected or confined to work within the 9% per side contribution rates and we would also not be legally responsible for any shortfalls within the pension plan. This is the wholesale change that means if the plan funding does not meet the target, then changes must be made by the members to work within the target. Hence this is still a defined benefit, without a guarantee that future service will never be reduced. If you believe the city will ever bargain more money into the plan beyond 9% then I have some oceanfront property in Saskatchewan for sale. The chief negotiator stated to us at the bargaining table that they will never put more than 9% into any city pension plan, and I believe him. Why do you think this pension language is so valuable to the city?


6. I have heard the pension plan will change and it will not be a defined benefit plan. Is That true?

The plan will still be registered as a defined benefit plan. The wording and agreements contained within the agreement in principle effectively change the risk structure to the members and also force the plan to function as a target benefit plan. Technically it is a defined benefit without a guarantee. In Murray Totland’s own words he has publicly stated that ATU is wanting something better or different than what the other 8 unions have settled for. It is clear that what all members have had since 1964 is better than what he is offering ATU members today.


7. In a media release, titled City remains firm after ATU executive pulls away from promises city-remains-firm the city states Quote (Unfortunately, the ATU executive retrenched its position on the pension changes and now says it will not accept the pension changes or the future sustainability plan for the pension) First off, ATU 615 has not pulled away from any promises. The city is attempting to discredit the current executive by suggesting we have somehow altered our position. Quite some time ago, discussions during bargaining took place about setting aside the pension issue and living to fight that battle another day, because the changes have already been imposed and there is no further sense of urgency in relation to the pension. Based on what ATU believed to be a general consensus that we could conceivably agree to settling all other issues, that the pension could be dealt with in the future, we continued bargaining the remaining outstanding issues. Upon resuming negotiations, the next day, we were informed that the city has retrenched their position and stated that we were going to sign their pension proposal once again. To insinuate that our executive has pulled away from promises is in gentle terms inaccurate. Nonetheless, I want you to know what our proposal given to the city on Tuesday November 8, 2016. atu-offer-for-settlement This proposal was what we believed to be way of resolving our outstanding issue of pension changes fairly and in the best interests of our members, the transit users, citizens of Saskatoon, Eight other unions and associations, and the political leaders of Saskatoon responsible for making decisions in the best interests of all citizens. ATU 615 and the city presented evidence in front of a 3 person arbitration panel in April of 2016, and are awaiting a decision from the board. The question the panel will be answering is a simple question in our eyes. The question is the city made changes to ATU 615 pension plan without consent through the bargaining process. The answer we are all awaiting is whether our language in the collective agreement together with all the evidence presented by both the city and ourselves at the hearing, supports our position or the cities. ATU is stating that the city did not have the legal authority to make the changes without our consent, and the city has argued that they were legally entitled to impose those changes without our consent. All parties are eventually going to receive the decision, anywhere from potentially tomorrow onwards in the near future I would expect. What our proposal that we gave to the city achieves  is it allows both parties to rely on that decision to settle this disagreement. In the event ATU loses the arbitration, we agree to sign the cities proposed pension language in their agreement in principle. See appendix B atu-offer-for-settlement  In the event the arbitration rules in the unions favor, then the city will sign our version of the agreement in principle. See appendix A atu-offer-for-settlement. Both pension agreement in principles state that all the changes made to the plan and registered would not change. Even though we could and have the ability to challenge the necessity of the changes, we could agree under this proposal that the changes to the plan would be agreeable to our members, identical to what the other group of 8 are currently agreed to. The difference between our wording in our agreement in principle and the city’s wording is the capping of rate and dispute resolution wording disappears, and in place our wording states that any further changes to the plan will be negotiated. This wording change is what this whole dispute is centered around. It is our opinion that a fair way of resolving this dispute is to simply allow the third party decision to determine which agreement in principle is accepted and settle this contract. Neither party is limited in the future from any legal appeals of the arbitration decision, and neither the city or the union is prevented from putting forth any bargaining language in future negotiations. In our eyes, a completely neutral third party will resolve this and all parties win. It is obvious that the city is not confident they are going to win this decision, otherwise they would have accepted this agreement. What I don’t understand is why the city decision makers would not accept this as a fair way of settling this agreement, as the term of this agreement runs out in a month and a half, and there are no urgent financial implications for the city. Instead what they continue to do is hold our members back pay as leverage to continue to try and force these pension changes on us. They are also now attempting to turn our members and the citizens against us for refusing to work overtime, once again knowing transit users may be impacted. This treatment of its workers and the citizens lies solely in the hands of city council. It is time that this be resolved before more citizens are impacted. What are you afraid of city council? Do the right thing and accept our proposal by simply allowing a third party to decide and live with the decision.


ATU 615 Executive Board