New Brunswick

Codiac Transpo union wants dispute to be election issue

The union representing bus drivers at Codiac Transpo is hoping to make its contract demands an election issue during Moncton's municipal election.

The union representing bus drivers at Codiac Transpo is hoping to make its contract demands an election issue during Moncton's municipal election.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290 wants $55,000 a year for its drivers.

The city’s latest offer, which was rejected by the union, would've brought a bus driver’s annual salary to $51,000 in 2015.

Talks have broken off, but the city has said any future offer would be less.

"These are not the types of people, as far as I'm concerned, that we should have in elected office," said union president George Turple.

Incumbent mayor, George LeBlanc, says the union wants too much.

"The offer the union is demanding is unreasonable, this is what I'm hearing from people on the street, this is what I'm hearing from our constituency - that's it unreasonable and that we should not agree to it," he said.

If re-elected, it will be business as usual, said LeBlanc.

But his opponent, Carl Bainbridge, said he'll consider giving the drivers their raise if elected.

He contends it's a fair wage, given that the bus drivers are willing to give up overtime and other benefits in exchange for higher salaries.

"The biggest problem that they're having is for people to actually understand how much they're actually giving up in concessions," said Bainbridge.

Scott Agnew, a candidate for a councillor position in Ward 2, agrees.

Bus drivers deserve the same pay as other city employees, he said.

"I mean $23, $24 an hour is not a bad wage, but to me the bottom line is what is everybody else working for the city getting paid and why are bus drivers the lowest paid city employees?

"I don't understand that and I would like to have someone answer that question for me."

In limbo

The city had offered a wage increase of 13.75 per cent over a five-year term, as well as improved health and dental benefits.

The union is seeking a 23 per cent wage hike over five years, which would bring a driver’s annual salary to $55,120 in 2015, according to the city.

The union has already voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike but said workers won't walk off the job without ten days notice.

The union is not currently calling for a strike and management isn’t locking anyone out.

Meanwhile, the bus drivers are in limbo.

Workers in ATU Local 1290 have been without a contract since June 2010.

Codiac Transpo operates in Moncton, Dieppe, Riverview and Lakeside.

The company says it provided 2.5 million passenger trips in 2011.

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