Toronto Transit Commission Strike: A PR Disaster

TTC Headquarters closed Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workers walked off the job at midnight last night after rejecting a tentative agreement with the city.

It goes without saying that transit strikes are tough on everyone. However, you do need some level of public support. Setting aside the issues being negotiated, the Amalgamated Transit Union has turned this into a PR disaster.

The union reneged on its promise to give Toronto residents 48 hours notice before striking. Instead the subways, streetcars and buses were taken out of service at midnight after an announcement at 11:23pm; 37 minutes before the strike began.

As the Globe and Mail reported:

A visibly angry [Mayor David] Miller said he had demanded in a phone conversation with union leader Bob Kinnear that he give 48 hours notice, but Mr. Kinnear refused.

The decision to go on strike without notice put many people in a difficult position – people who were out on a Friday night were stranded miles from home, while others were unable to get to work on Saturday. Some people were stranded mid-trip and the media pounced on their stories.

Here are a couple of seemingly obvious points that the union would do well to learn from:

  • If you make a promise – for example, to 48 hours notice before a strike – keep that promise
  • If you break your promise, don’t blame your customers. From the union’s press release:

“We have assessed the situation and decided that we will not expose our members to the dangers of assaults from angry and irrational members of the public,” said Bob Kinnear, ATU Local 113 President.

Update (8:50am): How has the public reacted? Let’s take a quick look at Twitter (via Tweetscan):

ttc-tweets

Can the union regain the public’s trust after this move?

(Photo credit: jbcurio)