Fredericton bus drivers and city end mediation without progress

Negotiating teams for Fredericton Transit workers and the City of Fredericton met with a provincial mediator Tuesday morning in an effort to avert a possible strike or lockout.

Transit union is in a legal strike position and could walk off the job with 24-hours notice

Fredericton Transit workers voted 73 per cent in favour of a strike on Sunday. (CBC)

A mediation session between the City of Fredericton and its transit workers ended on Tuesday without any progress, according to both the union and Fredericton mayor Brad Woodside.

Ralph McBride, a national representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the transit workers, said the meeting was from 10:15 a.m. until noon.

"We had our meeting this morning but it didn't produce anything," he said.

The bus drivers and other transit employees voted 73 per cent in favour of a strike on Sunday.

Ralph McBride, CUPE representative, said mediation talks with the city on Tuesday did not produce any progress. (CBC)
McBride said the union is not issuing its 24-hour strike notice yet.

"We're doing strike preparation training for our membership this week," he said.

The CUPE official said the training would take "at least several days."

Mayor Woodside issued a brief statement late Tuesday afternoon.

"Further to the meeting that was held this morning between all parties concerning the transit contract, there is no progress to report," it read. "Both parties remain in a position to take job action with 24-hours notice."

The main factor in the contract dispute revolves around wages.

The bus drivers make $22 an hour, which is $2.44 an hour less than their peers in Moncton and $4 an hour less than Saint John drivers. The Fredericton drivers want to move toward wage parity with the Moncton drivers.

"We're not looking for that all in Year 1 or even in this collective agreement," said McBride.

"But we'd like to start moving in that direction. I think the mayor's got it wrong. We're not trying to get $2.44 an hour in the life of this agreement if that is what he is thinking."

The union also wants part-time drivers to be paid at the same rate as full-time drivers, said McBride.

Mayor says deal is fair

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside maintains the city's offer is fair and has said it won't be improved upon.

The city's offer included 1.75 per cent annual wage increases in the first three years of a new deal and annual increases of 2.5 per cent in the final two years of an agreement.

The city will also increase biweekly payments for health and other benefits by $25, upping those payments to $200.

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside said the city has no plans to alter its final offer. (CBC)
The city's offer is the same deal that was accepted by inside workers and outside workers, who are also represented by CUPE, last year.

"The mayor's comments I've heard before," said McBride.

"These comments were made when the outside workers had this issue last winter as well — final offer is final offer. At the end of the day we did come to a deal that was workable for both groups."

Woodside has not ruled out a lockout of the union.

Moncton locked out Codiac Transpo workers in 2012 and it was five months before buses were back on the streets.

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