Codiac Transpo lockout 'revenue-neutral,' Moncton says

The City of Moncton says the two-month-old Codiac Transpo lockout has been "revenue-neutral."

Students struggle without bus service

Bus stops in Moncton remain empty about two months after the city locked out about 80 Codiac Transpo workers. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

The City of Moncton says the two-month-old Codiac Transpo lockout has been "revenue-neutral."

Although the city has not had to pay the wages of about 80 workers, or fuel the buses during the contract dispute, it’s not saving any money, said spokesman Paul Thomson.

There have been other expenses, such as marketing the city's position in the lockout, providing security at the bus station, and co-ordinating alternate transportation, he said.

"We're in, really, a revenue-neutral position," said Thomson.

"We're losing the money that we would get normally from fares and other such fees that we get from running the system. But we're not having to pay out salaries, fuel costs, those kinds of things."

About 80 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290 were shut out on June 27.

There are still 15 Codiac Transpo employees on the job, said Thomson.

Those workers, who are in management or belong to other unions, are assisting the city with the taxi voucher program, fielding customer calls, and working ahead on plans for when the bus service resumes, he said.

It's unclear when that might be, he added.

Students scramble for rides

Meanwhile, students in Moncton continue to scramble to find a way to get to school.

The Student Federation of the University of Moncton is scheduled to meet with city officials on Thursday to discuss possible solutions, said president Joelle Martin.

"We know it's a stress on students," she said."So the Student Federation is doing its best just to make sure that we have a solution. The sooner the better."

Although the city is offering taxi chits to help offset the cost of cabs, it's still expensive for students, said Martin.

High school students can count on school buses, but some of them do face challenges, said Carole Murphy, of the Anglophone East School District.

"It really affects a small group of our students that attend the alternative education centre and participate in the transition to work programs, as well as our high school students who might be enrolled in a co-op class or co-op program," she said.

The school district is responsible for transporting the students and for covering extra costs.

Thomas Richard, who is starting classes at the New Brunswick Community College next week, said he isn't too worried about what the lockout means for him.

"I'm a big walker, so I don't live too far — 20 to 25 minutes, so I can walk, or during the winter, rain, just take a cab,"  he said.

But his colleague Francisco Alonso, who is from Mexico, is more concerned.

"I'm a big walker as well, but I think that maybe come winter, I think that's really going to be a problem because I don't know what the winters are like here, but I've seen and I've heard that it's pretty bad and I think that's pretty hard thing to do to just walk to school," he said.

"And of course it's quite expensive to take a taxi, so I think that's a big problem."

Union calls for binding arbitration

The union representing the locked out bus drivers, service workers and mechanics at Codiac Transpo contends the contract dispute could be over right away if the city would agree to binding arbitration.

Last month, union president George Turple appealed to the public, asking citizens in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe to contact their councillors and demand the service resume.

The union is still willing to go to binding arbitration or to accept a deal Turple says the two sides agreed upon in 2010.

The city, however, is not willing to go into arbitration.

The Local 1290 workers have been without a contract since 2010.

Wages remain a sticking point in the contract dispute. The city's last offer to the transit workers contained a 13.75 per cent wage increase over five years.

That deal would have been retroactive to July 2010, and it contained improved health and dental benefits. The city’s offer would have brought a bus driver’s annual salary to $51,000 in 2015.

By comparison, the union was asking for a 23 per cent wage increase over five years.

That would have brought a Codiac Transpo bus driver's annual salary to $55,120 in 2015, according to the city.