Access-a-Bus crosses picket line in Halifax
Drivers yell 'scab' as managers take over limited service
Striking bus drivers yelled "scab" as private security guards escorted the first Access-a-Buses across the Metro Transit picket line in Halifax Monday.
Managers are operating the special buses for registered users who need transportation to and from medical and specialist appointments.
Ken Wilson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 508, said Monday that his union members held the bus for 10 minutes before letting it pass at 6 a.m., as agreed.
"We're not looking for aggression, we're looking just to support our strike and to support our line," he said from the picket line at the Burnside depot.
The 750 employees of Metro Transit have been on strike since Feb. 2. The major outstanding issue in the contract dispute is control of scheduling.
Driver 'surprised' by security
Janet Williams, a bus driver on the picket line, said she was "disgusted" that Metro Transit managers had been accompanied by security guards.
"I was really surprised," she said. "We were not expecting to see the management bringing a private security company, because that's just guaranteed to ignite emotions within the drivers.
"They were trying to enflame the situation and cause problems. They were trying to get a public outrage going by making drivers do something emotional."
She called it a "planned PR stunt," but said drivers had been restrained. "It seems everything [managers] do is designed to prolong this strike," she added.
Ralph Gass, a striking Access-a-Bus driver, said it was a tough situation.
"I've never been on strike before," he said. "That's my bus. We want to go back to work. These are our clients. When I go back to work, what are my people going to think of me? I just hope everything works out because we care very much about our ridership."
The Access-a-Bus service sent nine buses out Monday. Striking drivers delayed each bus by ten minutes.
Bus users still stuck
Monday's partial return to service for the Access-a-Bus did not help all regular users. Sheree Carrigan said she normally uses Access-a-Bus to see her family, go shopping and generally get around her life.
She has not been able to use it during the contract dispute.
"What it means to me is freedom," she said, adding life without the bus has been "boring."
"I've been quite upset I can't get out and get stuff that I need," she said.
Last week, the union voted to send the dispute to binding arbitration. HRM rejected that offer and backed going with a conciliator. The union rejected that approach. There are no negotiations scheduled.