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CUPE N.B. strike would bring early end to seasonal ferry service

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick says it may end seasonal ferry service near Saint John early if CUPE goes on strike'
New Brunswick says it may end seasonal ferry service near Saint John early if CUPE goes on strike
WATCH: The union that represents the workers of the ferry service says the boat could still run with essential employees even if CUPE does go on a strike this Friday. Tim Roszell reports. – Oct 19, 2021

The provincial government said it may bring an early end to a seasonal ferry service near Saint John, but only if the union representing workers goes on strike Oct. 22.

The Peninsula Princess makes at least seven round trips daily to Kennebecasis Island, a small island north of Saint John occupied mainly by summer cottagers.

The ferry is the only way for vehicle traffic to access the mainland.

New Brunswick Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jill Green said the service will end Oct. 22 if CUPE New Brunswick members go on strike.

“It’s service we provide in the summer months to residents of the island and we started letting them know at the end of the week last week, just to be prepared in case a strike did happen, that they would not have access to the island in the public ferry service,” Green said.

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Ten CUPE locals are in a legal strike position after contracts could not be reached with the provincial government. The union opted to hold off on any potential job action until at least Oct. 22 after the government introduced circuit breaker restrictions in several regions to try to deal with a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

CUPE Local 1190 represents 75 to 80 ferry workers, according to local president Brent Wiggins.

Green said the route was originally supposed to end Nov. 11. She said they wanted to give people advance notice of the possible shutdown because many need to winterize their summer residences.

The Kennebecasis Island ferry service is the only one slated to shut down in the event of a strike.

Green said there are other ferries that are key pieces of New Brunswick’s transportation infrastructure. She said at least some of those will be impacted as well, although they would be able to keep operating with staff designated as essential workers.

“There is planning in place,” Green said. “There are other ferries that will be impacted. We’re not completely through that process, but we will be sure the public knows before a strike happens so that they can make alternate plans.”

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But Wiggins said he’s not sure why Green would remove the service prematurely because there are essential workers for the Kennebecasis Island run as well.

“There would be an X-amount of members to operate those ferries that are designated (essential),” Wiggins said. “So, yes, would the service be impacted? Maybe a little?”

Wiggins said it’s another attempt by the provincial government to put CUPE in a bad light.

“To me, there was no reason to pull it off because there was going to be bodies there to keep the ferry going,” he said.

Wiggins said there are no plans for a strike on Oct. 22.

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