UMSU targets city councillors for U-Pass talks

VP external says plan is to ‘go above’ Winnipeg Transit

After receiving what the executive calls pushback from Winnipeg Transit, UMSU has decided to set up meetings directly with city councillors to negotiate its summer U-Pass.

UMSU vice-president external Owen Black said he and union president Jakob Sanderson began meeting with councillors to discuss the U-Pass at the union’s board meeting last week.

Black discussed UMSU’s motivation for directly lobbying councillors at the meeting, referring to difficulty negotiating directly with Winnipeg Transit.

“We have had a bit of resistance from Transit itself at the negotiating table for a summer U-Pass,” he said at the meeting.

“So our plan is to go above them, directly to city council and ask them to direct Winnipeg Transit to negotiate a summer U-Pass.”

Black added there was already a meeting scheduled with St. Vital councillor Brian Mayes.

Sanderson said UMSU negotiated with Winnipeg Transit “up to a point” to ensure the summer U-Pass proposal would reach city council but are now speaking with councillors to ensure it is approved.

“We are entering the last year of our current contract and want to ensure all students have the option of a summer U-Pass in the next contract,” he said.

“As well as ensuring opt-outs for all students outside the transit service area, and equity for Bannatyne students to have a U-Pass option that fits their unique schedule.”

Sanderson also referred to resistance from Winnipeg Transit.

“Certainly we’ve encountered some pushback from Transit but UMSU has been flexible with our summer U-Pass proposals, with consideration given to an elongation of the winter U-Pass, an opt-in U-Pass — which was met with considerable pushback — or a universal pass for full time summer students,” he said.

“We will continue working with Transit to ensure we come up with an option that benefits both parties and honours the initial terms of the U-Pass agreement: a desire for increased ridership, affordability and sustainability.”

At the time of publication, Winnipeg Transit has not responded to request for comment.

Should the summer U-Pass be approved, a referendum must occur before any increases in student fees as per the UMSU Act.

“Ultimately, we will give our students the final say before imposing any increased fees,” Sanderson said.

It was first announced in January 2018 that UMSU would begin lobbying for a summer U-Pass option, after the city introduced a 25-cent hike in bus fare and cuts to routes in late 2017.

The current U-Pass contract will expire in May 2019, but if negotiations are not mutually agreed upon, the current contract may roll over for another year. Other requests on UMSU’s end include additional and more convenient routes and buses.

Correction: This article originally stated the current U-Pass contract would expire in May 2018.