Busing woes: Home for the holidays?

Amanda Ellis’ family has to drive six hours to and from Bathurst so she can go home for Christmas. (Karissa Donkin/AQ)

St. Thomas University student Amanda Ellis relies on the bus to go back and forth from Fredericton to her family’s home in Bathurst.

But the fourth-year English student will have to find another way to get home.

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1229, who are maintenance workers, customer service representatives, drivers and mechanics for Acadian Lines in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, were prepared to strike last Friday morning after rejecting a contract offer from the company. They have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.

Before workers could strike, Acadian Lines halted service in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island beginning last Friday, saying they didn’t want passengers stranded at a moment’s notice. The outage also affects some service in Nova Scotia and Quebec, Orléans Express spokesman Marc-André Varin said. Orléans Express owns Acadian Lines.

“We realize that we’re getting close to the holiday season. It’s a busy time a year for passengers, but also for parcels that we carry,” Varin said.

There’s no timeline on when the service could return. As of press time, there are no additional talks scheduled between both sides.

If Acadian Lines buses aren’t back on the road soon, some students like Ellis could find themselves stranded for Christmas.

“My parents have to actually come get me after exams because the buses won’t run at all for me,” said Ellis.

“If they don’t come and get me, I’m completely stranded in Fredericton for the whole Christmas break, which is really sad. I’d be all by myself.”

Because Ellis lives in Bathurst, her family will have to spend six hours driving to and from Fredericton, a trip that she calls “a pain in the ass.”

With this in mind, the St. Thomas University students’ union and the University of New Brunswick student union are looking into how they can help students get home for the holidays.

“[UNBSU president Jordan Thompson] and I are going to look into the possibility of seeing if it’s viable for us to arrange for alternative transportation options for students from UNB and St. Thomas if this labour dispute continues on,” Livingstone said at the most recent STUSU meeting.

He said students could use the alternative service for a fee similar to what they’d pay to take the bus.

More information will be available on the service this week, he added.

Varin said having Acadian Lines service halted during one of the busiest times of the year would “for sure” have a financial impact on the company.

But the company’s New Brunswick and P.E.I. operations are already running in the red, he said.

“That’s why we need to make those crucial changes. We need to make some productivity gains.”

The timing of the strike has nothing to do with the holidays, union president Glen Carr said.

“It’s bad timing is what it is. We’ve been trying for 11 months to settle this.

We wanted it settled before the holidays came,” he said.

“The ball’s in their court right now. We’ve given them our counter offer. We need to resolve the issues and they need to come back to the table seriously.”

Ellis understands why the workers want to go on strike.

“I hope for the staff’s sake that they get a good result out of this. I understand why they have to go on strike. I just wish it wasn’t during Christmas because I want to go home.”

With files from Shane Magee.

Keep checking TheAQ.net for updates on this developing story

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