New Brunswick

Moncton unlikely to concede in Codiac Transpo dispute

A Mount Allison political scientist says it's unlikely Moncton city council will be first to concede in the two-month old Codiac Transpo dispute.

Political scientist says council may wait for union to make first move

Bus stops in Moncton could remain empty for a while, according to a political scientist. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

It's unlikely Moncton city council will be first to concede in the two-month old Codiac Transpo dispute, according to a political scientist at Mount Allison University.

Geoff Martin says Moncton council’s strategy in the lockout seems simple — let labour cool its heels.

"They can wait really for the labour side to make concessions because the public really doesn't have very much recourse, other than being upset with one side or the other," he said, referring to the fact that council was just elected in May and has a four-year term to serve.

As the lockout drags on, council could face increased pressure by riders to get the two sides back to the negotiating table.

Some of the most affected groups may include, university and college students, who are scrambling to find ways to get to school, and low-income people who can't afford other modes of transportation, such as taxis, said Martin.

But many of the affected people are often marginalized, said Martin.

"In a municipality, one of your biggest priorities is things like economic development and so on," he said.

"And so the people you are talking to are real estate developers and so on. That's not the same group that is dependent on the bus service."

May determine future of public transit

The city locked out about 80 bus workers on June 27 in a ongoing contract dispute, with wages a key stumbling block.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290, which represents the locked out bus drivers, service workers and mechanics, contends the dispute could be over right away if the city would agree to binding arbitration.

Last month, George Turple, the union president, appealed to the public, asking citizens in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe to contact their councillors and demand the service resume.

Council's handling of the dispute could determine the future of public transportation in the city, said Martin.

"We're seeing a lot of uncertainty in this region about public transit — Via Rail, Acadian Bus Lines, and so on. If you care about public transit, you also worry, too, about — will this be beginning of a decline of public transit in Moncton?" he said.

"Because we're really living in an age where we need more public transit and we need better systems because our long-term sustainability of the private automobile is not actually very good."

The city's last offer contained a 13.75 per cent wage increase over five years, which would have brought a bus driver's annual salary to $51,000 in 2015.

The union was asking for a 23 per cent increase over five years.

The workers have been without a contract since 2010.