(Tuesday, February 28, 2012) – The bargaining team for Halifax Regional Municipality has reviewed the latest proposal from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 508 and determined it is too costly.
The proposal submitted Monday would cost $7 million more over five years than the package offered by HRM on Feb. 23, and rejected by the union Feb. 24. Council today received a presentation on the ATU proposal and reaffirmed support for the HRM bargaining team’s efforts to secure a contract that will provide for efficient, affordable transit service.
“The additional costs of $7 million proposed by the ATU would be covered by the tax base and the fare box. We cannot do that,” said Mayor Peter Kelly. “We deeply regret that transit services remain parked, but we have taken a position in favour of the taxpayer and we will hold to it.”
The HRM offer of Feb. 23 will remain open for further ATU consideration until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 2. The five-year offer includes a rostered scheduling system, a $1,500 lump sum payment to ATU members in year one, and wage increases of 2.25 percent per year in each of the next four years.
In its proposal, the ATU bargaining team sought wage increases that would compound over the life of the five-year contract, and would retain the current “cafeteria pick” approach to shift scheduling. While the union had offered revisions to the system that would result in fewer leftover shifts to be filled, their proposal would see more bus operators being paid full-time wages for a part-time work week.
“Essentially, the union is seeking to trade one problem for another,” said Metro Transit Director Eddie Robar. “The proposal would see more open shifts assigned at straight pay while guaranteeing 40 hours of pay regardless of the number of hours less than 40 worked.”
Mr. Robar said that while ATU appears to recognize the number of leftover shifts is a problem, the union has not accepted a rostered work schedule as the fix, despite it being used cities throughout North American and Europe.
“We’re trying to move to an industry standard best practice, not adopt an untested scheduling system that we would be stuck with for five years,” said Mr. Robar.
More information will be provided through regular communications channels, including halifax.ca/metrotransit; on twitter @hfxtransit.ca; through regular transit ticket retail outlets; and media once details can be confirmed regarding the return to full transit operations and plans to honour previously purchased transit passes.
Metro Transit is the primary transportation service provider in HRM and the largest transit system in Atlantic Canada, comprised of over 300 buses and three ferries. In addition to its conventional fixed route system with 61 routes, including the premium MetroLink and MetroX services, it operates three Community Transit routes, the harbour ferry service and the door-to-door Access-A-Bus service for persons with disabilities.