More than one way to strike
By Ulli Diemer
Well, another TTC strike is looming and I for one think the transit workers deserve a decent raise. Workers should not be made the scapegoats for skyrocketing transit costs or for inflation generally, when any objective examination shows that other factors are key in driving costs up. Most working people tend to agree, I think.
But in any strike in a public service, the public does tend to get very irritable, not because of the demands being made, but because of the inconvenience. (And a transit strike is far more inconvenient to the average person, than, say a postal strike or an air traffic strike.) It’s unfortunate, but a reality of life, that people tend to blame workers rather than management for a strike, even though it may very well be management unreasonableness that is causing the strike.
The point, however, is that transit workers should take this predictable reaction into account, since public support or lack of it can be key in whether their strike is successful.
So I would suggest that TTC employees would do well to look at the example set in similar transit strikes in Britain and continental Europe. There, transit unions have adopted novel, and very successful, tactics. Rather than simply walk away from their busses, drivers have kept driving; but they haven’t let people pay their fares. The economic impact on management is exactly as severe as if vehicles weren’t moving, because no money is coming in. But there is no impact on the public, and the result has been that there has usually been great public support where normally there would be public pressure to end the strike.
Transit workers might do well to take leaf from the book of their European counterparts if they’re really interested in winning their strike.
Published in Seven News, Volume 9, Number 8, 26 August 1978.