The greater Moncton area could be left without bus service as of April 1 after talks between the city and Codiac Transpo broke down.
Paul Thomson, a spokesperson for the city, said the negotiations were unable to bridge the divide between the two sides. From the city's perspective, Thomson said, the dispute comes down to an issue of wages.
"From our standpoint, we are looking trying to get more operational efficiencies and synergies in terms of how we can run the Codiac Transpo. But it's primarily a wage issue," he said.
Thomson said the conciliation officer has filed a report with Labour Minister Martine Coulombe, declaring an impasse in negotiations with the City of Moncton.
"If she decides she's not going to appoint a conciliation board, then we're into a countdown situation and the countdown begins in terms of a work stoppage at that point," he said.
About 90 people — drivers, mechanics and service workers — have been without a contract since June 2010.
George Turple, a union representative, said his organization is looking for parity with other city workers and similar-sized transit systems in the region.
However, the union official said there is more at issue in these talks than wages.
Workers are concerned about overtime, being paid for pre-trip preparation work, and travel time.
The union official said he believes the dispute could have been avoided with the city.
"This city has orchestrated, in the last nine months — and maybe it started before that and I'm totally naive — but they've orchestrated a labour dispute, is what they've gone and done," Turple said.
Thomson said the city is willing to return to the bargaining table at any time.
Codiac Transpo operates buses in Moncton, Dieppe, Riverview and Lakeside.
The company says its 2010 ridership level was 2.3 million passenger trips. It estimates the 2011 ridership jumped to 2.5 million.
Codiac Transpo, which was created in 1980, has 45 buses on 24 routes in the region.