A bitter dispute over the leadership of the TTC’s largest union has been de-escalated, at least temporarily, with the two sides agreeing to enter into mediation.
Lawyers for the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents more than 10,000 TTC employees, and the organization’s parent union, U.S.-based Amalgamated Transit Union International, appeared at University Ave. courthouse Monday to file papers consenting to a mediation process led by noted labour lawyer William Kaplan.
Bob Kinnear, who was first elected president of Local 113 in 2003, had filed motion last week seeking an order to find his rival Manny Sforza in contempt of court, and punish him with a fine and imprisonment. Sforza is the ATU International vice president who replaced Kinnear temporarily when the parent organization locked Kinnear out and put the local under a trusteeship earlier this month.
Sean Dewart, a lawyer representing Kinnear, said that Monday negotiations would benefit both sides.
“I think the parties came to the realization ... that it’s always better to try and find a solution rather than have one imposed on you” by the court, he said.
The two sides are scheduled to meet with Kaplan Tuesday and Wednesday.
The fight over the union leadership erupted earlier this month after Kinnear filed a request with the Canadian Labour Congress on Feb. 1 that could have started the process of Local 113 disaffiliating from ATU International. ATU International accused Kinnear of going rogue and imposed the trusteeship.
The U.S. organization accused Kinnear of working with Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, to poach Local 113 members. Kinnear and Unifor denied the claims and said the matter of union affiliation should be put to a vote among the local’s members. Kinnear also challenged a provision of ATU International’s constitution that he said would allow a majority vote to disaffiliate to be overturned if only 10 members objected to leaving.
Last Tuesdaya judge found that ATU International had acted improperly by denying union members their democratically elected president, and ordered an injunction against the trusteeship. The decision also reinstated Kinnear and ordered ATU International not to interfere with the local’s affairs.
Hours later the executive board of Local 113 held an emergency meeting and endorsed a “no confidence” vote against Kinnear.
In his contempt motion Kinnear alleged that Sforza should be fined and imprisoned because he had violated the judge’s order by being present at the emergency meeting.
As Sforza left the courthouse on Monday, he told a reporter he had no comment. A lawyer representing ATU International referred questions to Local 113.
In an interview, Local 113’s secretary-general Kevin Morton said that the mediation process was “a joke” and that Kinnear had no case against ATU International. Morton stated the board’s no confidence vote still stands and that Kinnear has little support among membership for disaffiliating.
“His actions are totally selfish,” Morton said.
Dewart said the mediation could be narrow in scope and lead only to an agreement over the contempt motion, or could encompass the wider dispute over Local 113’s affiliation. The negotiations will be in parallel to an investigation already underway by the Canadian Labour Congress.
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