Public Values

Hotel among first in Toronto to subsidize transit pass for workers

TTC urging hotels and businesses to make program part of green strategy.

Hotel Worker with his employer-subsidized TTC pass.Taking a lead from San Francisco and Chicago which have passed ordinances requiring larger businesses to offer transit benefits, the Toronto Transit Commission is promoting its Volume Incentive Pass for businesses to help subsidize transit for their workers. One of the first to take advantage of the program is One King West Hotel and Residence in the downtown of the city.

"With the increasing pressures to green our economy, the VIP pass is a terrific option for Toronto businesses and their employees to significantly reduce their carbon footprint," said TTC chair Adam Giambrone. "One King West has shown real leadership by making it easier and more affordable for employees to move out of cars and into public transit."

Hotel workers, management at One King West Hotel and Residence, and Mr. Giambrone sent out a challenge to other hotels and businesses today to make employer-subsidized TTC passes part of their green strategies. On November 1, One King West began offering an employer-subsidized Metropass to employees, joining a small but growing group of Toronto employers offering incentives to workers to take public transit.

"We believe this is good for our employees, good for tourism and good for the city," said One King West Hotel General Manager Steve O'Brien after workers arrived at the hotel by streetcar waving their new passes. "We're challenging other businesses to get on board because a strong transit system means less traffic and less pollution, and that's good for business."

  "Many of us are having to work two or more jobs so this pass is going to make it much more affordable for us to get to work."

The announcement came as hotel workers were getting set to help build a green vision for the GTA at the Good Green Jobs for All conference in Toronto. They joined community, social justice, environmental and youth groups in examining how to shift a local economy to sustainable practices and the creation of good green jobs.

Giambrone congratulated the hotel workers of Unite Here, who began lobbying for an employer-subsidized transit pass in 1999. In response, the transit commission began offering the Volume Incentive pass (VIP) in 2002. Under the VIP program, large organizations can purchase Metropasses over a 12 month term at 10-12 percent discounted rates.

"Many of us are having to work two or more jobs so this pass is going to make it much more affordable for us to get to work," said One King West Hotel room attendant Jocelyn Cuasay. "Now the rest of Toronto’s hotels should honour their commitments."

Although most Toronto hotels bargaining with Unite Here Local 75 have agreed to provide a comparable subsidy, only One King West, the Fairmont Royal York and the Le Meridien King Edward hotels have to date set up the payroll deduction systems necessary to implement the program.

"This is a great idea," added Bob Kinnear, President of ATU Local 113, the union representing TTC workers. "The economic, environmental and labour relations benefits of this program far exceed its costs. Everyone involved deserves congratulations."

Unite Here Local 75 represents over 7000 hotel, hospitality and gaming workers in the Greater Toronto Area.

Links and sources
  Unite Here Local 75

Posted: November 06, 2009

  Front lines

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