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Potential GO Transit strike raising concerns for commuter students

By Fatima Raza

On Monday, Aug. 8, the union representing over 2,000 GO Transit employees issued a release accusing Metrolinx, an agency of the government of Ontario, of refusing to negotiate on critical issues, including job security, wages and improved work-life balance.

Some commuter students at TMU are concerned following a Metrolinx vote to strike. 93 per cent of union employees voted in favour of going on strike if a deal is not met, making it the largest mandate in the union’s history, according to CBC News.

Employees who voted for the strike include GO Transit bus operators, station attendants, plant and fleet maintenance workers, transit safety officers and other professionals.

Prior to the vote, many GO trains have suddenly been cancelled due to staff illness, leaving commuter students in the dark and wondering how train cancellations and the pending strike will impact their commutes to campus.

“If you are a commuter, you may lose four hours in your day compared to somone who lives on campus”

Maeve Fitzgerald, a third-year computer science student who commutes from Burlington, Ont., said the potential strike is concerning since there is no way to guarantee her commute will stay unaffected. She has to allot an hour and a half each way to get to campus.

Fitzgerald said she is still in support of the transit workers and appreciates them speaking up about their concerns.

“I definitely think that as a union, they need to fight for fair wages and work-life balance,” she said. “It only makes sense that they strike and get what they deserve.”

Fitzgerald said public transit is an efficient and environmentally friendlier option to get places and therefore, the concerns of the essential transit workers should be heard.

Saarah Riaz, a third-year student in the creative industries program who commutes from Ajax, Ont., said she already allots two hours each way for her commute and can’t wrap her mind around what the strike could mean for her.

“Imagine having to figure out your commute after a long, stressful and tiring day because the schedules might be up in the air due to the strike,” Riaz said.

Riaz’s school schedule is heavily influenced by her commute. Though it may be ideal to space classes out through the week, she finds this unreasonable when she has to travel so far.

“I would not want to be paying an extra 30 bucks every day to get to a one-hour class,” she said.
Riaz is especially worried for first-year students who might be commuting for the first time. However, she’s still mindful of the workers’ need to strike.

“As much as it is an inconvenience for me, I do understand that the workers are fighting for a living wage,” she said. “The workers deserve the treatment that they are asking for.”

“I would not want to be paying an extra 30 bucks every day to get to a one-hour class”

This month, a number of GO trains have also been cancelled, including morning trips on the Lakeshore East and Kitchener lines.

In an email to The Eyeopener, Metrolinx said it is “committed to providing reliable and efficient service.” They added that they are “hiring and training more staff to accommodate future increased service levels as more people get back to using transit.”

Fitzgerald said she was recently affected by an abrupt cancellation of her Lakeshore West train at Union Station. “It was announced very suddenly that the next Lakeshore West train would only be going to Exhibition, which is the first stop in the route, and is cancelled beyond that,” she explained.

When she asked the staff at Union Station what was going on, Fitzgerald said they were also unaware. Riaz said she feels that as a commuter, she already has a “watered-down version” of the university experience.

“I know a lot of people say that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day but I don’t really think that’s true,” Riaz said.

“If you are a commuter, you may lose four hours in your day compared to someone who lives on campus.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story implied that GO trains will be impacted by the strike. It is primarily bus drivers and some other employees but not rail workers that will go on strike. The Eye regrets this error.

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