New Brunswick

Arbitration possible for Acadian Coach Lines

The union representing locked out Acadian Coach Lines employees says buses could be back on the road soon.

The union representing locked out Acadian Coach Lines employees says if the company accepts its latest offer to end their contract dispute, buses could be back on the road soon.

Glen Carr, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 1229, said he's getting frustrated with the company.

"The union has always been the first ones to step forward again. We're not the bad guys here. We are prepared to go back. We are prepared to talk, but the company doesn't want to talk," Carr said.

"So if that's the case, then what else can we do?"

Carr said a letter was sent to the company on Wednesday offering to transfer the contract dispute to binding interest arbitration to resolve the situation.

The company was supposed to respond on Thursday afternoon, but a spokesperson has since said the proposal is being reviewed and they will likely have a response by Friday morning.

"Both parties have an opportunity to present their case to an arbitrator and the arbitrator will have a choice between what argument they want to go with, the company argument or the union argument," Carr told CBC News on Thursday.

Carr said if Acadian Lines agrees to that, all 59 employees in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island would immediately return to work and await the arbitrator's decision.

Drivers, maintenance workers and customer service representatives have been on the picket lines since they were locked out by Acadian Lines on Dec. 2.

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.

The company presented a last-minute contract offer to the union on Nov. 25. Workers voted 88 per cent against the deal.

Acadian Coach Lines still runs in Nova Scotia because the company's employees in that province are part of a different union.

"The Amalgamated Transit Union local 1229 want to apologize to the public," Carr said.

"We have tried. We have tried. We have tried."