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Halifax Metro Transit workers on strike for first time in 14 years

HALIFAX – Halifax Metro Transit workers are off the roads and on the picket line Thursday morning.

An 11th hour attempt to avert a strike failed and members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508 walked off the job early this morning.

Halifax Regional Municipality’s bargaining team called ATU back to the table, at the Holiday Inn Harbourview, at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday – the second round of failed talks in the last 12 hours before workers were set to strike.

The strike was held off for until just after 1:00 a.m.

Mayor Peter Kelly released a statement shortly after 2:00 a.m. saying it would be “an unfortunate situation within HRM, including transit users, drivers, employers and many others who will be inconvenienced by this job action.”

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According to the statement, the bargaining team presented two offers to ATU representatives.

One offer included weekly schedule blocking – known as rostering – and a 6 per cent wage increase over three years.  The other excluded rostering, but offered a raise of 3.5 per cent over three years.

Rostering – the most contentious issues throughout negotiations – would replace the current system which allows drivers to choose their schedules, with senior staff getting priority.

“We gave the union bargaining team options for their members and instead they chose to reject our proposals outright and push a strike,” Metro Transit Director Eddie Robar says.

But ATU president Ken Wilson says it’s the city that is forcing 750 workers to go on strike.

“We gave them solutions to avoid this,” Wilson told Metro News after leaving the negotiating room. “The problem is they just don’t understand it. They don’t understand the business.”

The strike, the city’s first in 14 years, will affect 96,000 commuters.

Metro Transit customers are advised to check the Metro Transit portion of the HRM website at www.halifax.ca/metrotransit for updated information. Information will also be shared by @hfxtransit on Twitter and through the HRM call centre at (902) 490-4000.

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Meanwhile, several commuters have taken to social media sites to organize carpools and rideshares. You can search for or post ride offers on our interactive map.

Global News will have ongoing coverage of the Metro Transit Strike.