Codiac Transpo, Moncton resume negotiations

The City of Moncton and Codiac Transpo are heading back to the negotiating table, according to city officials.

The City of Moncton and Codiac Transpo are heading back to the negotiating table, according to city officials.

About 80 bus workers have been locked out since June 27, when talks broke down.

"The City of Moncton made the effort to try and get the union back to the negotiating table and it seems to have worked," city manager Jacques Dubé said in a statement.

A date for the talks to resume has not yet been set.

An email from Dubé to George Turple, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290, outlining "a new concept" prompted the talks to resume, the statement says.

Although no details are divulged, it appears to be related to the length of the agreement.

"Council is prepared to consider a longer-term agreement, but the details need to be ironed out at the negotiating table," Dubé said.

The city is limited in terms of what it can provide in annual percentage increases, but has some flexibility on the length of time it can provide that increase, he said.

"Of course, any settlement must still include the necessary language changes that will allow for the long-term success and sustainability of the system.

"For Codiac Transpo customers this will mean more frequent and perhaps smaller buses, more direct routes and an improved transfer system."

Wages have been a sticking point in the contract dispute between the city and the locked out bus drivers, service workers and mechanics.

City spokesman Paul Thomson told CBC News he is hopeful a deal can be reached.

"It's about compromising. It's about finding common ground. And like I said, we've made the first move, here — made the effort to try to get the union back," he said.

"Where council has said we have some flexibility is regarding the time we can provide the increase. So the length of the contract, if you will."

Dispute hurting immigrants

The ongoing dispute is hurting people who rely on the service in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe, including clients at the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area.

Melvin Perez, who moved to Moncton from Costa Rica two months ago, has been riding his bike to get to his daily English class.

"I know it's not winter time, but I feel sometimes days are getting a little fresh for me or cold for me, so I'm pretty sure for winter time, definitely I need to have transportation," he said.

Justin Ryan, who is the public education co-ordinator for the multicultural association, said many immigrants aren't able to access the centre's resources because there is no public transit.

Some of his clients are seniors and unable to hop on a bike, while others have children that also require transportation, he said.

"And often we're helping them with the language skills necessary for them to get their driver's licence and do those kinds of things and right now, when they can't catch a bus, that's a major obstacle to them successfully integrating themselves into the local community."

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.

The workers have been without a contract since 2010.