Nova Scotia

Halifax council approves Metro Transit contract

Halifax regional council has approved the deal Metro Transit has offered, ending the six-week transit strike.

Free transit for the rest of March

Metro Transit buses have been idle since workers went on strike Feb. 2. (CBC)

Halifax regional council has approved the deal Metro Transit has offered its workers, ending the six-week transit strike.

"I'm very pleased to tell residents that buses and ferries will be running as soon as we can get them ready," Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly said in a news release.

Voting in favour 19-2, council agreed to a five-year deal with a $4,000-signing bonus and two per cent wage increases over the following four years.

The deal also included rostering-scheduling provisions with union input, a contentious issue from the beginning of the 41-day strike.

But the union will have have some say in hours implemented so long as it meets Metro Transit's efficiency needs.

"It has changed a bit. We sat down with the union and worked out a process that I think we both are happy with," said Eddie Robar, Metro Transit's director.

Kelly told reporters the deal has the same $5.6 million net cost that the union had to work with last month. The union was allowed to re-allocate the money.

"The taxpayers won this negotiation process in terms of the outcome," Kelly said. "Over the last three weeks, since Feb. 23, there have been no changes whatsoever."

As part of the agreement, council approved a recommendation to provide free public transit from the first day back in service through to March 31.

Metro Transit users who still hold a February transit pass can use it for transit services in April.

The city said refunds will still be provided until March 30 to those who purchased monthly passes.

Unionized Metro Transit workers voted Tuesday in favour of accepting a new collective agreement with the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Of workers who voted, 88 per cent voted in favour of accepting the contract.

The contract was hammered out over the weekend by the two sides.

The executive of the Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 508 presented the deal to union members Tuesday morning at the Halifax Forum.

The signing bonus cannot be claimed as income so it will not boost any retirees' pensions.

The last time union members voted on an offer from the Halifax Regional Municipality, 78 per cent voted against it.

Commuter relief

More than 700 Metro Transit operators have been on strike since Feb. 2, leaving approximately 55,000 commuters without bus or ferry service.

HRM residents were sighing with relief Tuesday night.

"Excellent, just excellent. What do you think?" Alyssa Martin said with a laugh.

University student Katie Duggan says she's relieved the buses will be back on the road. (CBC)

"I think the city, it's about time. I think there's a lot of people it's affected and it's about time they got the buses back in Halifax. It's gonna make things more convenient and the city can get back to the way it was," James Lawrence said.

"It's really awesome. It means you can stop spending so much money on cabs and walking everywhere. It's such a time investment to go anywhere these days," Katie Duggan told CBC News.

"I had to walk to Bedford one day so it helps with that I guess," Zach Burrows said.

"I'm glad that there's no more pedestrians because I've almost run over quite a few people — so I'm happy to hear it. It's good news," said David Prusse.