Thursday, February 17, 2011

Romance and Transit Cuts

Union Prez Also Confused By Transit Cuts

Of course, the transit riders of Guelph were not a happy bunch a few weeks ago when news came down that again this summer there will be service cuts and a fare increase, but they weren't the only ones. Indeed, the people driving those buses aren't happy either, and neither are their union reps.

I got the chance to talk to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1189 President Gary Daters on the phone last week and it wasn’t hard to tell that he was slightly disappointed when reading in the newspaper on February 1 that his workers were going to have to take a budget hit for the second year in the row. “We negotiated a contract under the understanding that there would be no service cuts this year," explained Daters. "We ratified the vote on January 30th and the next day we were informed that there would be service cuts. We questioned that, and we were told even last year that it would only be a one time deal.”

Adding to the union's cynicism of the City's intentions is the fact that Daters and other members of union leadership didn't find out about the proposed cuts and fare hike until the day after the new three-year union contract was ratified, the same day that City Council got its first look at the proposed 2011 budget. Daters was called for a meeting with transit's general manager January 31st, but was unable to attend, hence the newspaper revelation the next day.

“Our goal is to keep 20-minute service in the summer time so that the public won’t be inconvenienced and also there won’t be any layoffs on our part," Daters added. "Last year, it was a tough summer. People were missing their transfers and there was a strain on the drivers that were here.”

Last summer, 20-22 workers were laid off from June to August as Guelph Transit’s 20-minute service, and Sunday service for the month of August, were both suspended in an effort to save money in the City’s operating budget. Of those some 22 workers, five did not return in September. Daters says that if the same number of layoffs occur this summer, chances are that the number of workers that won’t return will increase. “I’ve talked to many who were laid off last year already and they’ve said that this time, if there’s another layoff, [then they won't come back] because they can’t afford to work nine months of the year,” he said.

In the hope to build support for transit and to hopefully overturn the decision to cut service and increase fares, the ATU Local is asking for public support. Additionally, the ATU is putting together a presentation for the February 22nd council meeting and Daters says that he's been in communication with other local groups making presentations to City Council during their deliberations. Daters is asking transit users to make their displeasure heard with their City Councillors.

How Romantic…?

A couple of years ago, I was on the crew for a film shooting in and around Guelph called Four Aces. It was a romantic comedy, set in Guelph, about people that lived in Guelph, made by a crew mostly from Guelph, living in Guelph, or spent some time in Guelph. Clearly, we were on to something because just in time for Valentine’s Day, Guelph was named the second most romantic city in Canada for the second year in a year. It’s a vindication only Two-Face could appreciate, but still, it’s nice to think that little Ole Guelph – The Royal City – is also The Romance City (at least in Ontario).

So by what standard are we the second most romantic, or the most romantic in Ontario to put it another way? Was it the cozy atmosphere of our eateries? The charming vistas along the paths of our local parks? Activities that foster romantic connections like Guelph Jazz Festival or Hillside? Nope. Let’s quote the story from the 570 News website: “ bestowed that honour on the Royal City based on the per capita sales of romance novels, relationship books, romantic comedy DVD's and Michael Buble CD's since January 1, 2011.”

That’s great. We’re romantic because of the number of books with beefcake emblazoned covers and CDs with Rat Pack cover songs sold? Does anyone else feel cheated? You should because as the 570 News story pointed out, one could see these stats another way as they indicate that there may be a great number of lonely people in Guelph; hence their investment in items of fictional romance. And did you notice that mention of “relationship books?” Are you likely to have a lot of romance if you’re hitting the books trying to figure out why your relationship isn’t firing on all cylinders?

Anyway, Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, I guess.

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