Metro Transit workers to vote on contract
Conciliation talks between the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Amalgamated Transit Union have broken off, which may mean a strike or a lockout by Metro Transit workers on Feb. 2.
Ken Wilson, president of Local 508, said city officials have unnecessarily rushed the bargaining process.
"Our typical negotiations take 12 to 14 months. Look at other business units in HRM. The police have been without a contract for two years. Water Commission, four years," he said.
Wilson said Metro Transit workers have been without a contract since Sept. 1.
"All of a sudden, they're done? We're going to take a strike vote? That's absolutely unacceptable. That's why I'm asking the citizens of HRM to contact the mayor, the councillors and let's get us back to the bargaining table," he said.
Representatives of the union and Halifax Regional Municipality met with a conciliator eight times from November to January before talks broke down.
Wilson said the conciliator filed his report on Wednesday at the city's request, putting the two sides in a legal strike or lockout position on Feb. 2.
Metro Transit workers are scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss and vote on the city's latest offer. The bargaining committee is recommending its members reject it.
Wilson said the Amalgamated Transit Union will go back to table to avoid a strike or lockout.
"Jan. 29, 30 and 31 for around-the-clock, 72 hours bargaining. Whatever it takes, I'll go right to the deadline," he said.
Shaune MacKinlay, a spokeswoman for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said municipal officials don't want to talk about the issues until after Sunday's vote has taken place.
"We see this as a vote on a contract offer so we'll be watching that closely," she told CBC News.
"We're hopeful. And then certainly, whatever the outcome of the vote is, we'll have more to say on Sunday."
Hannah Smith — one of the 90,000 people in the municipality who use Metro Transit every day — said she doesn't know what she'll do if she can't catch a bus.
"I'd have to see if I could get a drive with somebody or even walk across the bridge. I mean, it's not too far of a walk but it would be pretty unfortunate," she said.
"I would be really cold. I really hope that they don't go on strike."
The last time there was a transit strike in Halifax was 14 years ago. It lasted six weeks.