The Amalgamated Transit Union has set a deadline of noon on Saturday for reaching a deal on a new collective agreement with the city of Thunder Bay.
The head of the ATU local that represents 170 bus drivers and maintenance staff said if the talks fail, union leaders need time to inform its members and the public about any plans for job action on Monday.
"We have to let people know and make sure everybody is aware of what's going to happen early Monday morning,” Sheila Kivisto said.
Bus drivers and maintenance workers in Thunder Bay are looking to be compensated somewhere in the mid-range of salaries paid by Ontario transit systems.
Their last contract expired in June of 2012.
In the meantime, a conciliator is in Thunder Bay, guiding a second day of contract talks between the ATU and the city.
Passengers consider other transportation options
The threat of a possible strike is worrisome for Sharon Pitawanakwat, the acting CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Thunder Bay. She said about 90 per cent of its day program clients take the bus.
"If they have no other supports, they won't be able to attend the day program,” she said.
“We don't have the means to transport everybody."
Pitawanakwat noted the association would be able to help some of its members by offering rides in the corporate vehicle.
If a strike happens, one group that will be hit hard is university and college students.
"In terms of students' ability to learn, and carry on with their studies … a work stoppage would be absolutely disastrous,” said Ian Kaufman, head of the Lakehead University Student Union.
Kaufman says the student union is working on a number of contingency plans in the event of a transit strike, including subsidizing people who offer rides to others.
Kaufman also said they are exploring the possibility of setting up a shuttle service with Iron Range Bus Lines.
Iron Range president Jason Logozzo confirmed the union has requested pricing, but would not comment further.