After a wildcat strike last month Canadian politicians are taking legal steps to limit the right to strike.
Maintenance workers from the CSN union at the Montreal Transport Society (STM) went on strike after management's new four-year contract offer contained a 1 year pay freeze followed by 2% rises in each following year, with inflation this is a estimated wage decrease of 3.6% in real terms*. Workers voted to end the action after a week, but are still refusing the contract offered by management.
Even though the service managed a $10M surplus in 2005) workers will be the first to pay the cost. With the price of a ticket having risen seven times in five years passengers are also unhappy.
Rather than increase funds for a cash-strapped organisation that currently isn't able to budget for repairs and necessary replacements the opposition party Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) has proposed a law changing the status of the transport system to an essential service. This means that in the event of future strikes the unons would be charged with ensuring that an 80% service was maintained.
The president of STM, Claude Trudel, who is also the Mayor of Montreal, called the strikers irresponsible and described their action as premature. He did however repeat that he had no intention of moving on the issue of the wage freeze. M. Trudel's salary details are unavailable.
Salary reports have been leaked to the press to imply that the workers are well-paid and are simply holding the transport network to ransom. The politicians responsible rarely reveal their own salaries voluntarily, it is also to be noted that the maintenance workers are qualified engineers and their wages are lower or comparable to those of their colleagues in other parts of Canada.
*Over the last three years government figures show that inflation has varied between 2.15 and 2.43%. I have used a base figure of 2.5% a year for these calculations.