Acadian Lines dispute may end next week, says union

The Amalgamated Transit Union is expressing confidence the prolonged contract dispute with Acadian Coach Lines could be resolved by early next week.

Workers have been locked out since Dec. 2

The Amalgamated Transit Union is expressing confidence the prolonged contract dispute with Acadian Lines could be resolved by early next week.

Acadian Coach Lines locked out its 59 drivers and maintenance workers on Dec. 2 and several attempts at resolving the dispute have failed.

Contract talks resumed on Sunday and the union and bus company expect to continue meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

Glen Carr, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229, said the company is bringing Denis Gallant, the new vice-president for the Maritimes, to the negotiations.

"With the new [vice-president] being hired here in the Maritimes, we take that as a positive outlook. That we'll be able to resolve this issue and move forward and that's what our intentions are," Carr said.

"We just see it as a positive that there is somebody local, he's born and raised here in Moncton. He kind of would know the area a lot better than someone from Quebec."

'Let's get the buses back'

The two sides met on Sunday at the Delta Beausejour in Moncton.

"The union is here and prepared to settle. We're hoping that the company has the same mindset and wants to settle as well," Carr said. "And let's get the buses back on the road for not only the employees and the company, but mainly for the public."

If no deal is reached over the next two days, Wednesday will mark the fifth month that there's been no intercity bus service in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Denis Gallant, an official with the company, said in a statement released on the weekend that Acadian Lines was looking forward to the negotiations.

"Obviously everybody is here looking forward to getting an agreement so that we can put this matter to bed," Gallant told CBC News Monday.

But the negotiations cannot ignore the company’s financial pressures.

Previous talks failed

While there is a sense of optimism heading into these latest negotiations, talks have failed numerous times in the past.

In October, talks broke down when Acadian Lines was offered a contract with no pay increases over the next five years, according to the union. The union said it wanted at least a cost-of-living increase.

The company presented a last-minute contract offer to the union on Nov. 25. However, the workers voted 88 per cent against the deal.

The two sides also failed to reach a new agreement in February when they held 27 hours of talks.

Despite the previous failures, Carr said union members are looking forward to getting back to the bargaining table.

"They would love to be back at work and they've put their trust into the negotiating team to resolve this [dispute] this week. And that's our intention and hopefully we can do that for our membership and also for the company and mainly for the public," Carr said.

Many union members have left their picketing posts empty, because after months without work, they had to find a new source of income.

"It's been a challenge, I mean it's hard on everybody. It's devastating to the families. Not only devastating to the families, but also devastating the travelling public," Carr said.

"Agreements are always very difficult to do," Andlauer agreed. "There's a lot of components, a lot of small pieces that both sides have to make sure that they get nice and tight. Both for the company and the union members."