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TORONTO TRANSIT UNION TO STAY ON JOB FOR NOW

The Toronto Transit Commission's union said Thursday that it would stay on the job and at the bargaining table -- at least for now -- with contract talks continuing until Wednesday.

But the president of Local 113, Amalgamated Transit Union, also warned that if talks took a turn for the worse, the union could still "re-evaluate" its options and walk out before then.

"There is the possibility that could happen prior to Wednesday, depending on how productive the discussions are," Bob Kinnear said Thursday. The union has been in a legal strike position since 12:01 Friday morning.

One of the issues dogging the talks is a bitter dispute over the treatment of bus drivers who stray from their route schedules.

Kinnear told a news conference that drivers who arrived at stops more than four minutes ahead of schedule just four times over two years had been fired and had to be reinstated with union intervention.

A management source said drivers who overshoot their route timing are subject to discipline and sent home for a day without pay but not fired.

Union leaders pointed to the case of bus driver Gary LaTour, 51, who has been with the Toronto Transit Commission for 29 years. He said that last year he was called on the carpet and "relieved of his duties" after he finished his congested Wellesley bus route ahead of schedule "four or five times" and was late several times as well. But LaTour said he was then reinstated after just a day and a half, with help from the union.

"I think it's become a real issue, because drivers . . . are afraid to take even a break to go to the bathroom," LaTour said. "I mean, that's childlike."

Commission Vice Chairman Joe Mihevc said he did not want to address the issue in the media: "That is an issue for the negotiating table," he said.

He said that keeping the buses running on time is an important issue for the commission but that management is open to discussing how best to do it.

Kinnear said management is taking a "totally unreasonable approach" and that dozens of drivers had been fired or disciplined for missing their schedules.