Megan Thomson, St. Thomas University’s student union president, says with a potential transit strike looming her organization is prepping the alternatives to the city’s bus system.
“STUSU has highlighted immediate alternative methods of transportation, including providing financial incentives for student carpooling,” said Thomson. “We are looking into long term solutions should the interruption continue.”
Fredericton Transit met Sunday to vote on whether to accept a five-year contract being proposed by the city. The union has decided to reject the offer. Susan Sauve, CUPE Local 1783 president, said this means a strike in the near future is possible.
“This is the grey area. We took a strike vote, an actual legal strike vote, and 73 per cent of our operators voted to strike. We sent that back to the city, and told them their proposal was rejected, and the ball is in their court,” said Sauve.
Much of the disagreement lies in pay inequality between Fredericton bus drivers and bus drivers in other cities. On average, drivers in Moncton earn 11 per cent more per hour than Fredericton drivers, and Saint John drivers earn 18 per cent more.
“We’re considerably lower,” said Sauve.
Disparities also exist among Fredericton drivers. The two classes of drivers, OP I and OP II, do nearly identical work, but OP II drivers are paid 6 per cent less, and have a considerably smaller benefits package.
It is uncertain at this time when we will know if Fredericton Transit will strike.
“The last thing we want to do is go on strike,” said Sauve. “We’ve got a lot of people who really depend on our transportation system.”
Thompson said at this point the student’s union is in conversation with cab companies. She said if a service interruption happens students can expect some sort of deal to be worked out to reduce or eliminate their cab fare.
As of Sunday night though, Thomson said she doesn’t know exactly what that deal might look like.
“I reiterate that neither of these will be launched until an official strike announcement is made and are meant to operate on a temporary basis. If no strike is announced we won’t be launching them.”
While this vote doesn’t automatically start a strike, Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside released a statement saying the offer on the table is final.
“City Council continues to believe this is a fair and reasonable offer, and in fairness to our taxpayers, I can tell you the offer has not, and will not increase,” said Woodside.
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