Craig Watson, the new president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, says there there isn’t an absenteeism problem in the membership, but a memo from another executive member posted on the union’s website makes it sound that way.
“Certain employees have had absenteeism issues,” Watson told me this morning. “The goal is to keep these people on board, to get them back in the fold.”
Watson said management was trying to use “a steamroller when they should have used a fly swatter” when trying to change the rules about calling in sick, which have required employees to make one call to a supervisor. Watson said management wanted employees to call two supervisors.
He acknowledged there was a bit of a communication snafu on both sides, with management not calling the union first about the changes, and then the union having a knee-jerk reaction.
Watson said to his knowledge absenteeism was down in the spring compared to the year before, then a flu bug went through the department. But everything is good now, he said, with all of OC Transpo’s service requirements being met.
At the end of the day — as the memo indicates — management agreed to keep the status quo on sick calls and the union is happy.
Watson is still getting his feet wet as union boss. He just took over at the beginning of the month.
The executive busy is planning for a Canadian-American ATU conference happening in Ottawa next week.
Watson said he doesn’t expect a crazy September — unlike last year — because there are no major route adjustments planned for this fall.
One outstanding issue is a new collective agreement for Para Transpo employees, Watson said. The contract ends at the end of the year, but Watson doesn’t expect any problems with the negotiations. There is a no-strike/lockout clause in the collective agreement.
Photo of Craig Watson by the Sun’s Errol McGihon