New Brunswick

Transit union president says no need for bus stoppage

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union said the city is playing games and said he believes the city is trying to send a message to the 90 Codiac Transpo workers during their ongoing contract dispute.

Union does not accept city's explanation for Codiac Transpo service cancellations

Codiac Transpo blamed staffing problems for its decision to cancel several runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (Karen Rawlines/CBC) (Karen Rawlines/CBC)

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union said the city of Moncton is playing games and that he believes officials are trying to send a message to the 90 Codiac Transpo workers during their ongoing contract dispute.

George Turple said the city should not be holding up the buses. 

 "This happened five months ago, it happened last year, it's been happening on a regular basis. And they can't hide behind a labour dispute. Shame on them. I tell you now, they should not be doing this," he said.

Don MacLellan, General Manager of Community Safety services for the city, disagrees.

He said the city has been unable to fill seven vacant driver positions and two mechanic positions.

"Even if we find qualified candidates they're not that interested in coming to work when there is a labour situation looming. They're a little uncertain about what the future may hold," MacLellan told CBC News.

Turple said he believes the the city is trying to send a message to the workers in the middle of an ongoing contract dispute.

"It's exactly what's it's been, and it's not going to work. Like I said, I have a newsletter stating in January they're short people then to cover 200 hours worth of work. Where are these people at? Why haven't these people been hired?" Turple asked.

MacLellan said contrary to what the union believes, the city is not playing dirty.

"There's no gamesmanship, I don't think, on the union side either. It's just a situation we both find ourselves in given the labour negotiations that we're into," he said.  

Codiac Transpo and the Amalgamated Transit Union have been locked in a contract dispute for months, primarily over wages. Talks have broken off and no new talks are scheduled.

"It is neither a strike nor a lockout, it's just a matter of having enough staff available to cover all routes," said city spokeswoman Nicole Melanson.

The city is trying to hire bus drivers and mechanics, she said. But people aren't willing to leave existing jobs to come into a situation where there could be a work stoppage because of the current contract dispute.

Passengers not happy

Some Codiac Transpo passengers say they feel they're being used as pawns in the ongoing labour dispute between the City of Moncton and the union that represents bus drivers.

On Thursday, the city announced there would be some Codiac Transpo service interruptions in the greater Moncton area for the next few days due to staffing constraints caused by the dispute.

And additional cancellations "may be required will little or no advance notice," the statement warned.

Patrick Sprott, who uses the buses up to eight times a day, believes the announcement is clearly a contract issue.

"It's been two years since they've had a contract. Maybe they should actually sit down and figure out what's actually going on. And if they deserve a raise, which I think they do, then they should get it, no matter what," he said.

"They shouldn't have to go through this every year."

Affected routes

The affected routes include:

  • May 11 — morning service on the #6 Elmwood B, #11 Whitefrost, and #14 Riverview West; afternoon service on #8 Lakeside and #13 MID.
  • May 12 — all bus service to the casino is cancelled for the day and morning service on the Express 2 and 4 are affected, as well as evening service on the #1 Downtown Malls, #3A Hildegard, #20 Champlain and #21 Amirault.

Codiac Transpo also had to cancel a run on Thursday evening.

Don MacLellan, the general manager of Community Safety Services in Moncton, said there will be further changes on Friday and Saturday.

"There will be other adjustments in the service for [Saturday] so I do encourage people to check the website and the transit phone number to make sure they're aware of those adjustments in service," MacLellan said.

Union not convinced

Turple said the changes to routes come as a relief in a way.

Some drivers have been working shifts of 55 to 60 hours a week because there aren't enough workers to cover all of the bases, he said.

Still, Turple does not accept the city’s reasoning for the cancellations.

"The city is not putting out applications, they're not putting out or accepting applications, they're not advertising for employees and therefore nobody's going to be filling out applications, and you know it's their responsibility to hire the employees they need to run their business and they're not doing that right now," he said.

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

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.