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City of Moncton officials say they could lock out Codiac Transpo workers if they don't sign a contract soon.

Codiac Transpo workers have up to a year to decide to walk off the job, which has bus users in the greater Moncton area worried about the ongoing uncertainty.

The 90 workers, including bus drivers, mechanics and service workers, have already voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike.

But they have 12 months to give the city their 24-hour strike notice without holding another strike vote.

City officials, however, assure they won’t let the tension drag on for too long.

The city may exercise the option of locking out the workers if they don’t sign a new contract, said spokesman Paul Thomson.

"That offer is not an open-ended offer. It's not going to be on the table forever," he said.

"At some point, we're going to put a time limit on it. We can't continue to operate a system under that kind of a threat forever."

Still, the situation is putting some passengers in Moncton, Dieppe, Riverview and Lakeside on edge.

'I mean this is a city and every city has a transit. I mean how are we going to get around? We'll be walking a lot, or buying bicycles.' —Denis  Raymond, passenger

"It's very uncertain," said Alex Schumann. "And it leaves me with a big economic hardship of figuring out how to get to work, whether I have to cab it or just walk. Thankfully summer's going to be here soon."

Sylvie Breau is already looking at alternatives.

"Today I took the day off because I need to look for different options. The impending strike means I have to look for something closer to home, rather than wait for contract work."

Denis Raymond says it’s unfair for passengers to be caught in the middle of the labour dispute.

"A lot of people are relying on the buses for employment. I think it's quite inconsiderate for transit to even think of going on strike.

"I mean this is a city and every city has a transit. I mean how are we going to get around? We'll be walking a lot, or buying bicycles."

Codiac Transpo said it provided 2.5 million passenger trips in 2011.

Seniors, poor most affected

Groups that represent seniors and the poor are calling on the Codiac Transpo and the City of Moncton to do whatever it takes to avoid any work action.

The groups are not taking a position on the dispute. They just don't want to see bus service affected when so many people can’t afford other ways to travel.

"Everybody that has their own car, they don't worry about it. It's mostly the low income people that it hurts," said Hermance LeBlanc, president of the New Brunswick Senior Citizens' Federation.

Jean-Claude Basque, of the Common Front for Social Justice, agrees.

"We have a lockout at Acadian [Lines] and that also has an impact on a lot of people that are at an income level that they don't have a car," he said.

"So both of these situations increase the stress levels of people."

Bus workers currently earn $21.50 an hour. The union is asking for $26.50 an hour. The city has offered $24.60.

The two sides weren't able to work out a deal through two rounds of mediation.

Workers have been without a contract since June 2010.

Amalgamated Transit Union officials were not available for an interview Thursday, but pointed to a website the local, 1290, has just launched.

They say it's aimed at building public support by accusing the City of Moncton of bargaining in bad faith.

The city maintains its offer is competitive.