Citizens' group calls for end to Codiac Transpo dispute

Citizens in Greater Moncton who rely on public transit are calling for an end to the Codiac Transpo lockout, saying they've lost patience.
Bus stops in Moncton have been empty since June 27, when city council decided to lock out about 80 Codiac Transpo workers. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Citizens in Greater Moncton who rely on public transit are calling for an end to the Codiac Transpo lockout, saying they've lost patience.

It's time for the City of Moncton and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290 to get back to the table, said Lucien Sivret, who speaks for the group of concerned citizens.

The city locked out about 80 bus workers on June 27 in an ongoing contract dispute, with wages a key stumbling block.

Sivret says up to 8,000 people are affected and they're tired of the rhetoric from both sides.

"They say that they feel for us, they say that they understand our pain, but we're not seeing any concrete resolutions or concrete solutions so we're pretty much disheartened by the whole thing and we've lost faith basically," he said.

Sivret's group contends city and union officials should start meeting at least every couple of weeks.

As it stands, no new talks are scheduled, leaving some people in the lurch, said Sivret.

Low-income families struggling, women afraid

"Low-income families, we hear that they rely a little bit more on food services like the soup kitchens, or the food banks because there's just not enough money anymore to tie up the ends of the month," he said.

Many women are worried that as the days get shorter, they'll have to walk in the dark, said Sivret.

Meanwhile, other people say they're getting sick because they're forced to walk in the cold and rain, he said.

Although the city is offering a discounted taxi program, Sivret says it's still too expensive for many people.

Taking a taxi to work would cost him $50 a week — the same amount he was paying for a monthly bus pass, he said. So he's walking to work, which takes him an hour each way.

Earlier this month, Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc asked the union to allow its members to vote on the city's latest offer to end the lockout.

The city is offering to pay Codiac Transpo drivers $52,000 a year by 2017, but the union is holding out in hopes of being paid $60,000 per year by 2018.

George Turple, president of the union local, said the unionized bus drivers, mechanics and service people would meet to discuss the offer, but he doubted it would result in the buses being back on the streets any time soon.

Both sides have agreed to annual pay hikes that would bring the bus drivers' salaries to $51,000 a year by 2017, up from $44,000.

The union’s demand for a $60,000 salary in 2018 has been described by city manager Jacques Dubé as a "wage bomb."

The workers have been without a contract since 2010.

Codiac Transpo services Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.