Halifax transit workers vote to strike Feb. 2

Contracting out services continues to be main dispute issue
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 01/23/2012

Halifax transit workers have rejected the city’s latest offer by 98 per cent.

As a result, the city’s more than 760 Metro Transit bus drivers, ferry operators, mechanics, maintenance staff and office employees could walk off the job as early as Feb. 2.

“(Halifax Regional Municipality is) looking for contracting out of the maintenance department, the Access-a-Bus division, the ferry division, the receiver’s office, (and) possibly even conventional transit,” Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 508 president Ken Wilson said after the results of the vote were announced.

The last transit strike in Halifax took place in 1998 and lasted for five weeks. One of the main issues while negotiating the last collective agreement was contracting out services, said Wilson. In fact, it was the principal reason workers went on strike before the city conceded the idea to get the service running again.

The differences between what each party hopes to achieve in this round of bargaining is “absolutely wider" than during the last impasse, according to Wilson.

The city is disappointed with the results of the vote.

“We put forward a contract package, inclusive of wage increases, that would allow us to build a sustainable, reliable transit service for the future,” said Metro Transit director Eddie Robar in a statement.

ATU 508’s last contract expired on Sept. 1, 2011. The two groups exchanged proposals in their initial meeting; however, the city applied for conciliation almost immediately.

From November to January, the union and the municipality met with a conciliator eight times before talks broke down.

The two parties are continuing to meet and have said they hope to reach an agreement before the strike deadline.

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