New Brunswick

Acadian Lines set to strike Friday

Workers for Acadian Coach Lines in New Brunswick and P.E.I. are set to go on strike Friday morning.

With the prospect of a strike looming, Acadian Coach Lines plans to shut down operations in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Workers for Acadian Coach Lines in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are set to go on strike Friday morning.

The 59 bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers and customer service representatives voted 88 per cent against the latest contract offer from the company, said Glenn Carr, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229.

"It was an insulting offer that was obviously cobbled together quickly," Carr said.

The workers are expected to walk off the job at 6:30 a.m.

Company spokesperson Marc-André Varin said the company had no choice but to shut down operations as a result.

"We couldn’t allow a situation to develop where passengers would be left stranded on a moment’s notice due to a labour dispute," Varin said in a release.

"We decided that it’s best for everyone if we locked out employees and shut down operations to concentrate on reaching an agreement that both parties can live with, respect and manage efficiently."

The release says significant progress will need to be made with the union before operations resume. 

Will affect travel, parcel delivery

Acadian has two daily runs to and from Prince Edward Island. A strike would interrupt intercity bus travel in the two provinces, as well as between Nova Scotia and Upper Canada because the buses won't be able to travel through New Brunswick, said Carr.

It will also affect parcel delivery, a major factor during the Christmas season, he said.

"The last thing that we wanted to do was to go on strike. We didn't want to interfere with the travelling public's needs and wants and their tasks and their parcels and I know it's a bad time of the year, but sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in," Carr said.

"We do not want to strike, but Acadian management has left us no other option," he said. 

"ATU members sent a loud and clear message to Acadian that we want to be treated with respect and fairness."

The workers gave their 72-hour strike notice on Nov. 23, but talks were quickly scheduled for Nov. 24 to prevent a walk out.

The company presented a last-minute offer to the union on Nov. 25 "after pressure from the mediator to do so," said Carr.

The workers were briefed on the contract and a secret ballot vote was taken on Nov. 27 and 28,  with the contract being overwhelmingly rejected.

Talks had previously broken down in October and workers voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action.

At that time, the company was offering a contract that was worth zero per cent over the next five years, according to Carr.

The union wants at least a cost of living increase, he has said.

Workers have been without a contract for about 10 months.

"We appreciate the support of the riders and customers and urge them to contact Acadian Coach Lines to demand they bargain fairly with results, not insults and settle this dispute," said Carr.

"We are willing to sit down with management to reach a fair settlement that is good for workers, management and most of all the public."

Company officials have said the company is facing some financial challenges and that many of the New Brunswick routes aren't profitable.

"The current situation in New Brunswick simply does not allow us to operate without a significant financial loss," Varin said in a news release. "We know we need to do a better job at increasing passenger travel and control overall expenses while continuing to provide safe, convenient and comfortable service throughout the Maritimes."

The company says travellers can contact  Acadian at infobus@acadianbus.com or toll-free at 1-800-567-5151 for more information.

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