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Toronto Commuters Irked by Strike

April 20, 1999

TORONTO (AP) _ Highways were clogged, downtown sidewalks bustling, and thousands of commuters were frazzled and grumpy on the first day of a transit strike that left subways and buses idle in Canada’s largest city.

After weeks of labor negotiations, a strike by 7,800 Toronto Transit Commission workers began Monday to push demands for a wage increase. About 800,000 commuters rely on the Toronto’s public transit to get to work.

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman said the city does not have the money to meet the workers’ demands. ``We cannot get it. It is not possible,″ he said.

The striking workers are asking for a 3 percent increase in wages each year for the next three years. The final offer of the city’s transit commission was a 2 percent increase for the next three years and improved benefits.

Commuters pulled out bicycles, arranged car pools, and in many cases showed up late despite their best efforts.

Adam Sidenberg was scheduled to attend the first day of his final exams at the University of Toronto on Monday. He was an hour late.

``I thought, I’ll leave at 7 a.m., it can’t be that bad,″ he said.

Hopes for a quick end to the strike faded Monday night when opposition politicians at the Ontario legislature withdrew support for back-to-work legislation. The agreement could have sent the workers back to their jobs as early as Wednesday.

Government House Leader Norm Sterling warned that Toronto commuters could now be stranded ``as long as a couple of weeks.″

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