Nfld. & Labrador

Metrobus workers reject deal, set Oct. 5 strike date

A strike would mean all bus service across St. John's — except the GoBus accessible service — would grind to a halt.

Workers reject City of St. John's offer Thursday night

The workers are in the position to strike as of Oct. 5, which would disrupt transit across the city. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The union representing Metrobus drivers and maintenance staff says the majority of its members have voted to reject a contract offer from the City of St. John's, and are set to strike Oct. 5.

Eighty-two per cent of the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1462 turned down the contract offer from the city's transit committee Thursday night. 

"They are fed up, and we just want to be treated fairly," said Local president Paul Churchill, who is also a bus driver.

But Churchill hopes to avoid a strike, which would see the Metrobus service grind to a halt. 

The GoBus service, which provides accessible transit in the metro area, would not be affected if a strike proceeds.

"We want to get back to the table and the city to take the drivers serious," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

The union, which represents 109 Metrobus workers, has been working on a new deal with the city since May 2019. The union has stated it wants full severance packages, more sick leave and more money for people working after 7 p.m.

The city has said severance packages are the sticking point.

Churchill said it's now up to the city, particularly Coun. Dave Lane, to come to the negotiating table with a solution.

"Mr. Lane's made a statement, on numerous occasions now, that he has some wiggle room. So I think it's time for him to do his wiggle," Churchill said.

Lane told CBC the city is eager to return to negotiations — but there's no wiggle room when it comes down to cash, as budgets are tight both for Metrobus and the city overall.

"We're already predicting some tough decisions with a notable deficit for 2021 and beyond," he said. "Nobody can afford to give more."

Lane said a conciliation process is underway to find a middle ground. He said he wants to get back to talks, as he worries a strike could erase the gains made in Metrobus ridership and service in recent years.

"We could lose all that. And the question is, is this worth going on strike, to have that long-term impact? I don't think it is, and I'm hopeful that when we get back to the table that we can avert the strike in some way that works for both of us, something that doesn't have an increase to the budget," he said.

Metrobus workers last went on strike in early November 2010, with the disruption lasting about 13 weeks, until the end of January 2011.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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