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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Halifax's transit strike is over

Free bus fare provided to protect drivers from rider anger.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge transitstrike-01.jpg
Halifax’s transit strike is over. Tuesday, both the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Halifax city council voted to accept a new contract between the two. Mechanics went back to work Wednesday; ferry service will resume Thursday and full bus service Friday, after 43 days off the road.

In reward for their great patience, transit users will receive free service for the rest of the month. Additionally, February bus passes will be valid for the month of April.

It wasn’t publicly stated, but two councillors have told me that Metro Transit managers said in the closed-door council meeting that they want the free service in part to protect drivers. Emotions have run so high during the strike that there is some fear that rider anger will be directed at drivers, and the hope is the free fare will allay that anger. Publicly, managers say the free service is “to thank our customers.”

Free fares will have the additional benefit of bringing ridership figures up---after the last strike, it took a full year to get ridership back to pre-strike levels.

As for the contract, it appears the city got everything it wanted. The price tag for the new contract complies with all long-term budget projections previously adopted by council and, wrote Metro Transit manager Eddie Robar, the contract includes “rostering, wage steps, a new accident review policy” and a wage offer that is less than the offer rejected in a union vote on February 24. See Robar's report here.

The union accepted rostering, albeit with the provision that the union can tweak the roster list so long as it doesn’t leave more than 10 open shifts.

The deal also includes a $4,000 signing bonus, but reflecting lost pay from the strike and no other pay raise this year, that amounts to about a one percent total annual raise. The $4,000 however, will not be compoundable into the two percent annual raises for years two through five of the contract.

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