STC workers head to court

An STC worker outside the Moose Jaw bus depot on April 7, 2017. -- (Crystal Schick/Times-Herald)

Union seeks injunction to keep buses rolling

In a move aimed to halt the disbanding of STC, workers under the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) have taken the provincial government to court.

The ATU went before a judge in Regina on Thursday to ask for an injunction that would stop the government from winding down the Crown corporation and seeing 224 people out of work.

Eric Carr, president of the ATU Local 1374, which represents most of those workers facing unemployment, told the Times-Herald he hopes to see Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Lian Schwann grant the injunction.

“I don’t expect the courts to keep a business going forever,” he said. “I expect an injunction so that the people of Saskatchewan can say their bit, and hopefully (Premier Brad Wall) will change his mind and take it to the next election like he should and run a campaign on closing down the Crowns or selling them, and let the people of Saskatchewan decide if that’s what they want.”

STC has not made money since 1979 and projected passenger numbers were 182,000 for 2016/17, down from 790,000 in 1980. The government announced in March that the company would be ceasing operations at the end of May and would afterwards be selling off its assets.

In the courtroom, lawyers tried to steer clear of philosophical differences over whether STC should operate as a public service or a money-making company. Rather, most of the arguments hinged on its status as a Crown corporation, legal acts that govern such agencies, and definitions of “privatization.”

A decision is expected next week, but if it takes longer, Schwann will consider a temporary injunction to maintain the status quo until her final ruling.

CEO of the Moose Jaw and District Chamber of Commerce Rob Clark said that while he hasn’t heard too much about the planned closure from businesses, he has heard concerns from people on the street.

“I would have to think a lot of the businesses, farmers, would use the bus service for parts, for product. Not really actually for riding the buses,” he said. “For the business side, I don’t know the numbers, but I would think that would be somewhat significant.”

For people though, Carr said the effects of the STC closing would be significant. For workers, the loss of employment would certainly be traumatic, but it would also have an impact on the public as well.

“What it means for Saskatchewan is a double hit,” he said. “They’re losing an excellent, safe bus service that they were promised during the last election by the Sask. Party and Mr. Wall that it wouldn’t be touched. They have to endure the fact that they’re not going to have that service, and also that when they voted, they were lied to.”

-With files from the Regina Leader Post