New Brunswick

Acadian Lines lockout strands Maritime travellers

Acadian Lines bus services ground to a halt Friday, after the company has locked out workers during an escalating contract dispute.

Routes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. affected

Acadian Lines locked out workers after the two sides failed to reach a new contract, shutting down bus services Friday.

Marc-Andre Varin, a company vice-president, said the last bus stopped running at 6:30 a.m. AT.

Maintenance worker Maurice Blanchard delivers a message outside the Acadian bus terminal in Moncton. (Bob Murphy/CBC)

Until the two sides come to an agreement, Maritime travellers will see their schedules upended.

While the biggest impact will be felt in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the dispute's impacts will also be felt in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

"We regret to inform you that our service in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will therefore be interrupted as of Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, at 6:30 a.m. Furthermore, part of our service in Nova Scotia will be affected, and we will not provide connections between Nova Scotia and Quebec," according to a statement on the company's website.

Locked-out workers started showing up at the terminal in Moncton by 6:30 a.m. Approximately 60 employees were on the New Brunswick and P.E.I. picket lines Friday morning.

Guards circled the area while employees set up a picket line, the CBC's Bob Murphy reported from the scene.

He said union leader Glen Carr would call the company later Friday to see whether talks can resume.

'It's not a good feeling'

Wendell Bryenton, one of three Acadian drivers who operate out of P.E.I., was on the picket line at the Charlottetown depot.

"Well, it's not a good feeling, especially so handy to Christmas. And the customers are kind of depending on us," said Bryenton, who has been with the company for three years.

Wendell Bryenton of P.E.I. has worked for Acadian for three years. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

"Sooner it gets settled the better it is for everybody. Like, the drivers lose, the company loses. And the businesses, they lose. And the mechanics, they could possibly lose. It's going to hurt everybody." 

For 11 months, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229 has been in contract negotiations with no results.

The union voted 88 per cent to reject a contract offer.

Christopher Legere, a union representative, said the wage increase of one per cent that was on the table isn’t fair to employees.

"Cost of living is very expensive — gas, groceries, heating homes, just everything in general is very expensive," Legere said.

When talks broke down in October, the company was offering a contract that was worth zero per cent over the next five years, according to Carr. The union said the company has now offered the workers a one per cent annual raise beginning next July.

The union wants at least a cost of living increase for bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers and customer service representatives.

Taxis aim to pick up extra work

Acadian Lines says its operations in New Brunswick are losing money and they need to be more productive. It says the alternatives are cutting jobs and increasing ticket prices. The company is also looking for more flexibility in assigning drivers.

Glenn Carr, a driver and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229, disagrees that this is necessary.

"They're sending in outside workers from Quebec, [who are] doing our work. That's job security. The other thing is our seniority. It's in jeopardy because they just want to pick and choose where they send you and who does the work. They decided now that the work assignment needs to be changed, revamped. It doesn't — there's never been a problem before," he said.

Some taxi drivers and courier services hope to pick up some extra work because of Friday morning's lockout at Acadian Lines.

Ron Saulnier runs Taxi Papillon in Moncton. He said he's willing to take passengers who can no longer rely on the bus, but also refused to undercut the prices the bus company normally charges.

"I can offer, say, six people to Campbellton at bus price. Bus price costs you 60 bucks to get to Campbellton. Six times 59 is 300 bucks. Six people [with] all their luggage. We bring them right home, " he said.