Acadian bus talks to resume this weekend
Little optimism for progress, union president says
Mediated talks in the lengthy labour dispute between Acadian Coach Lines and its employees are scheduled for this Sunday, but union president Glen Carr isn't optimistic that there will be any progress.
Carr, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229, told CBC News he feels Acadian Lines won't bargain in good faith until it gets some kind of government subsidy.
"They've been playing hard-nose, and we believe, in my opinion, we're just being used as a political pawn so the government can get government money," Carr said.
Carr said the union is prepared to sit down and stay as long as it takes to negotiate a resolution.
There has been no intercity service in New Brunswick and PEI since Acadian locked out its 59 drivers and mechanics December 2.
Acadian spokesman Marc-Andre Varin told CBC News, "The company will approach the table with an open mind and a willingness to resolve the issue and get back in business."
Acadian Lines still runs in Nova Scotia because the company's employees in that province are part of a different union.
Issues impeding talks
The company was offering a contract that is worth zero per cent over the next five years, said Carr. But, he said, Acadian's parent company, Groupe Orleans Express, has given raises to Quebec Orleans drivers and the Acadian intercity employees in Nova Scotia.
Carr said the union wants at least a cost-of-living increase.
Acadian said it needs to make changes to its organization and how it assigns drivers in an effort to reduce financial losses.
According to the company, Acadian Lines lost around $2 million operating buses in New Brunswick and P.E.I. last year. The company said it lost more than $7 million in the last eight years.
"The issue is this... Union members want seniority to dictate shift schedules... while the company says that's not efficient," Varin said.
Two sides haven’t met since February
The last time the two sides met was February, but when negotiations broke off once again, the company said limited progress was made and the two sides were still far apart.
This was not the first round of negotiations to fail to produce an agreement.
Talks had previously broken down in October and workers voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action.
At that time, Acadian Lines was offering a contract with no pay increase over the next five years, according to the union. The union wanted at least a cost-of-living increase.
The company presented a last-minute contract offer to the union on November 25. However, the workers voted 88 per cent against the deal.
Impact on travellers
Patrick Jeffrey told CBC News P.E.I. he's been trying to get to Quebec City, but with the bus strike the only way he can get there is through a ride share.
"Normally I just catch the bus ... But you can't so I've been kinda putting my name into Kijiji," Jeffrey said, "just writing Facebook statuses just trying to get myself to Moncton."
Fortunately, Jeffrey's plan worked and he secured a ride through a Kijiji contact.
Yves Bourassa emailed Jeffrey about the ride.
"Well 90 per cent of the time with the bus strike there are tons of people looking for rides," Bourassa said.
"Obviously it's affecting people... the lack of transportation."
Bourassa said this lockout gives him an opportunity to save a few dollars.
"It usually works pretty well for both parties," he said, "helps with gas."
For some, rideshare works, but many others who rely on the bus service may not be so adventurous.