Negotiations between Metro Transit employees and Halifax Regional Municipality are all but frozen on this partly sunny, frigid weekend.
While City Hall's elected officials enjoy the weekend off in their cozy homes, striking union members don their winter armour determined to get a fair deal on their contract.
Talks stalled Thursday midnight, and the strike began shortly after that - the first day that the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) was legally entitled to.
ATU Captain Monique Smith states, “We aren’t asking for anything new. We just don’t want things taken away from us.” When asked if they want a pay increase, she replied, “We don’t expect much, but they aren’t even offering us 15 cents.”
Cars were busy driving Hwy #111 in Dartmouth, near the Metro station in Burnside Park. Amid honking horns in support of ATU, bus driver John Spearns added, “The city saves $650,000 a week. They want to save the money.” He expects that the strike could last up to 6 weeks, which would mean a savings of almost $4 million dollars. NS Premier Darrell Dexter is in no hurry to legislate the workers back to work, reports CBC. There are over 50,000 commuters that rely on transit.
The last strike was in 1998, lasted 5 weeks.
Spearns described the union strike rotation, “We do four hour shifts, 24 hours a day, and we get paid $100/week, though there is a rumor it might go up to $150/week. It barely pays for my coffee and cigarettes.”
Smith noted, “It is not just us that is affected, but the whole community.” Spearns expressed, “Margaret from up the hill has to go to a doctor’s appointment.” He picks her up in his own vehicle to give her a ride. Other people are finding different ways to get to work, school, and appointments such as sharing rides with friends, hitchhiking, and or just plain walking.
According to CBC, shuttle service is being provided for registered Access-A-Bus users who need to get to their dialysis appointments.
Some people are turning to CarShare, reports CBC. CareShare gives people access to a car without having to buy one. Simply join the club, reserve your spot, and drive - hourly or daily, CarShare provides self-serve access to clean, green vehicles. You can try it out for 30 days.
Monday morning will bring an influx of traffic into Halifax, a city that has limited parking spaces already. But other things are happening as well. People of the Halifax community are rising up to the occasion, helping each other out. Neighbours looking after neighbours - the good old Maritime spirit is alive and well.