Metro Transit, union back at bargaining table
Workers could strike Feb. 2 if there's no agreement
Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union and Halifax Regional Municipality spent Sunday at the bargaining table to avoid a possible strike, while about 150 Metro Transit workers and others attended a rally to support unionized workers.
The union representing Metro Transit drivers were still sitting with HRM negotiators Sunday night, after spending most of the day trying to work out a new agreement that would avert a strike scheduled for Thursday.
The long hours of talks were an encouraging sign, according to Ken Wilson, the president of Local 508.
"The deadline is fast approaching, and we're prepared to stay at the table for as long as it takes," Wilson told CBC News Sunday evening.
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Talks began Sunday morning at about 9 a.m.
The union has said a strike is set for Feb. 2 if an agreement can't be made.
Negotiations broke down earlier this month and last week union members voted 98.4 per cent to reject the city's offer.
Sunday evening's rally was held at Parade Square in downtown Halifax. Some of the federal NDP's leadership candidates, who were in town for a debate, attended the rally.
About 96,000 people in HRM use Metro Transit daily.
"How are we going to get back and forth to work?" questioned rider Downey Navey on Sunday.
About 100 Metro Transit workers marched in Dartmouth Sunday morning. They began at the union's office and ended one kilometre away at the Holiday Inn on Wyse Road, where contract negotiations were taking place.
Transit users worried
Shane O'Leary, vice president of Local 508, said the city is taking away job security.
"They're looking for part-timers, they're looking for contracting out. Both of those issues will bring unprofessional people into our work place," O'Leary said.
At the bus terminal in Dartmouth, transit users said they were worried about a possible strike.
"I mainly rely on the bus to get around," said Montel Beals. "If they do go on strike, it's going to be an inconvenience for a lot of people."
Christine Sliming said she uses the bus to get to Saint Mary's University from Cole Harbour. She said while she does have friends who drive, she said taking the bus is easier and less expensive.
"Gas is just so expensive," Sliming said.
Officials with the HRM has said they will not comment during negotiations.