Fredericton bus drivers reject offer, prepare for transit strike

Fredericton Transit workers could be off the job later this week after drivers voted 73 per cent in favour of rejecting the city’s latest contract offer.

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1783 voted 73% against the city's offer, could strike on Tuesday

Watch some Fredericton residents express their concern over a potential transit workers strike 2:05

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside is holding firm in his position that the city's wage package to transit drivers will not change and he is warning citizens to prepare for an "unfair" strike.

Fredericton Transit workers could be off the job later this week after drivers voted 73 per cent in favour of rejecting the city's latest contract offer.

Woodside said he doesn't see the need to return to the bargaining table because the city's offer, which matches similar deals taken by indoor and outdoor workers, is not going to change.

"It is a fair offer. I know it and they know it and they should have taken it," Woodside said on Information Morning Fredericton on Monday.

Fredericton Transit drivers rejected the latest contract offer from the city on Sunday. The bus drivers can walk off the job as early as Tuesday night. (CBC)
The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1783 voted down the city's contract offer on Sunday and that could lead to a strike as early as Tuesday night.

Ralph McBride, a CUPE national service representative, said the wheels for a strike are now in motion.

"We'll start now doing some strike preparation things to get ready for it. We'll be looking for, I guess, a strike headquarters and taking all those things in line," he said.

Despite the strike mandate, McBride said he is hopeful a work stoppage will not be necessary.

"Hopefully we'll have a sit down again with the provincial mediator and the city and maybe come to a conclusion without having to exercise any of those rights," he said.

Woodside said the city has discussed the possibility of a lockout as a way to prevent rotating strikes or inconsistent service.

He said he hopes the contract dispute can be solved without a transit stoppage but he said the union's strike vote could be a sign that a disruption is unavoidable.

"That means in all [probability] there is not going to be transit for people that rely on it, that is very unfair and it is very unfortunate and it really shouldn't happen," he said.

Watch Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside respond to questions from reporters about a potential transit strike 1:24

Wage dispute

The main dispute between 43 unionized drivers and the city are wages as Fredericton Transit drivers are paid less in comparison to their counterparts in neighbouring Moncton and Saint John.

Both the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside say they are hoping a work stoppage can be avoided. (CBC)
Fredericton drivers make $22 an hour, which is $2.44 an hour less than drivers for Codiac Transpo in Moncton and about $4 an hour less than drivers in Saint John.

Fredericton's final offer to the drivers is a 1.75 per cent increase in each of the first three years of a new contract and 2.5 per cent annual increases in each of the final two years of a five-year deal.

Fredericton's mayor said bus drivers should not hold out hope that they will get wage parity with Codiac Transpo drivers in this contract.

"This fellow who is doing the deal is talking about they want to get closer to Moncton, well move to Moncton, that is how you will get closer to Moncton," he said on Monday.

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