Moncton gets rough ride over Codiac Transpo lockout

Moncton citizens crowded into city hall on Monday night to urge city council to find a way to end the Codiac Transpo lockout.

Deputy mayor says the city needs a 'realistic partner' to negotiate with

Codiac Transpo workers have been locked out since June 27. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Moncton citizens crowded into city hall on Monday night to urge councillors to find a way to end the Codiac Transpo lockout.

Roughly 30 people showed up for the regular council meeting and several of them stepped up to the microphone so they could outline their concerns about the ongoing lockout.

Many of the presenters said they weren’t backing the city or the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290, but they just wanted to see buses rolling again.

Lucien Sivret told the councillors he and his fellow riders are fed up with the lockout, which started on June 27.

Sivret, who was among the five people who presented to Moncton council, urged the politicians to do something to get the buses back on the roads.

"We are no longer interested in how one side is asking more or how the other is offering less," he said.

"What did catch our attention since June 27 is that practically nothing has been done to put the buses back on the roads of the city."

Councillors also heard directly from some people whose lives have changed because of the contract dispute.

Sylvia Breau said the bus lockout has cost her a job because she could not get around the city.

"For me, it's catastrophic. My life has stopped. My quality of life has gone down," she said.

‘We’ve heard your concerns’

But the lockout stories did not seem to have an effect on the councillors.

Deputy Mayor Merrill Henderson thanked the presenters before reading a prepared statement that outlined what the city has done and what it was not prepared to do to end the dispute.

"We've heard your concerns, the union needs to hear them as well. They also need to justify their unrealistic wage demands," Henderson said.

"Moncton city council wants to see the Transpo up and running again as soon as possible. But we need a willing and realistic partner in the ATU to make that happen."

Henderson said the council is still "fully committed" to the bus users and wants to get back to the negotiating table.

The union held a press conference on Monday, calling on the city to agree to binding arbitration. The city has rejected the idea of moving to binding arbitration.

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 transit workers have been without a contract since 2010.

Codiac Transpo serves Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.