Hamilton resident faces ‘very difficult’ commute as bus strike continues with no end in sight

Talks have broken down between the city and union as wages remain a key issue

The bus strike continues for a sixth day in Hamilton, with the city refusing to budge on the issue of wages and the union refusing to bargain unless that’s on the table. 

The strike began last Thursday, pausing bus service across the city. Usually, the bus system sees an average of 65,000 rides a day, the city says.

Drivers are on the picket lines for the first time in 25 years. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 workers are calling for higher wage increases, reliable washroom breaks and improved facilities. 

The city has said it offered a 12.75 per cent wage increase with a 3.75 per cent increase retroactive to January 2023, and three per cent increases in 2024, 2025 and 2026.

Local union president Eric Tuck said it’s not enough. “We need wages to keep pace with inflation,” said Tuck. “We’re prepared to move toward the middle, but [the city] is going to have to move, too.” 

At a news conference Monday, human resources executive director Lora Fontana said the city’s offer on wages is “not changing” but they’re prepared to discuss other issues “that may or may not have a monetary impact.”

‘A total inconvenience’

For transit user Cheryl Fawcett, the strike has upended her commute. 

She lives downtown and works on the Mountain. She said she’s been able to catch a ride each morning with her former boss. But she has to leave work two-and-a-half hours early in order to get a ride home.

“It makes it really difficult,” said Fawcett.

Her grandson also recently missed a long awaited specialist appointment across town at the McMaster University Medical Centre because they couldn’t afford an Uber or taxi, she said. 

Hamilton resident Michelle Campanella said she’s been fortunate because she can walk to work, but her family and friends are bearing the brunt of the service disruption.

“The drivers deserve what they’re asking for, but it’s a total inconvenience,” she said.

When asked what residents are supposed to do if the strike drags out for weeks or months, public works general manager Carlyle Khan said Monday he encouraged them to car pool or use the city’s bike share program. 

“This is difficult on all Hamiltonians and that’s not lost on the city,” he said. “We ask employers to accommodate any commuting issues their staff may have during this labour disruption.”