POLITICS
10/24/2011 06:52 EDT | Updated 12/24/2011 05:12 EST

York Transit Strike Begins

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A GO Transit bus strike has been averted, but a walkout by York Region Transit workers began on Monday morning, causing travel problems for thousands of commuters travelling north of the city.

York Region Transit and Viva express route workers hit the picket lines at 4 a.m. on Monday, affecting dozens of routes operated by companies contracted to supply service to the region.

The strike affects about 60 per cent of York Region routes. Click here for a complete list of routes affected.

They include Miller Transit's 51 routes in Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan and 29 operated by First Transit in northern York Region.

About 340 employees represented by Amalgamated Transit Union 1587 are affected by the walkout.

About 220 Viva drivers represented by ATU Local 113 also walked off the job, stopping service on five express routes.

York Public Transit general manager Rick Leary said the strike will affect an estimated 44,000 commuters.

“It’s unfortunate but I have to report that service today is affected in northern York Region. Our southeast and Viva service has been impacted due to the strike. This affects about 60 per cent of service in the region, 85 routes and 44,000 people are affected this morning.”

CBC's Steven D'Souza reported Monday that the strike is causing headaches for commuters.

"There's a lot of anger and frustration from people as you can imagine," D'Souza reported. "Getting to work on a busy Monday is difficult at the best of times, and today it's even more difficult."

One woman he spoke to paid $50 to take a taxi to Richmond Hill from Newmarket, only to learn the bus she intended to take to continue her journey wasn't running.

"Now she's waiting for a friend to pick her up so she can get to work," said D'Souza.

Deal not close, union president says

ATU Local 1587 president Ray Doyle said the two sides are not close to reaching a deal.

"We’re a very long way apart," he told CBC. "You have to keep in mind the drivers in York Region are working for as much as 40 per cent less than every other transit property in the GTA."

Metrolinx, GO Transit's parent company, announced late Sunday that it had reached a tentative agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union.

Metrolinx said details of the tentative agreement would not be released until the deal is ratified.