Prepare for a lockout: Greyhound union

DOUG HEMPSTEAD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

Most Greyhound bus traffic in and out of Ottawa could shut down Thursday and all remaining routes sure to be delayed.

That's the latest warning from members of the ATU Local 1415, who represent 400 Greyhound bus drivers, mechanics and some terminal staff.

Twenty seven Greyhound routes across Ontario and Quebec would be effected if the planned lockout by the company goes ahead.

"The only chance is a last minute something or other from the company," said ATU spokesman Ken Sundberg. "Those things do happen, but we don't have any way of knowing."

Not knowing is what's troubling Scottish tourists Chris Logan and Kat Flood.

The pair were in Ottawa Tuesday, grabbing a Greyhound to Quebec City after a sightseeing trip in the capital.

"We're quite concerned about it, really," said Flood, adding she and Logan just rode in from Toronto and the next few stages of their adventure will take them from Quebec City to Montreal and later to Toronto.

"We don't know what we'll do," said Logan.

"We're trying to put some more money aside because we'll probably have to take trains and they're more expensive."

The company notified workers Friday, after the latest contract offer was rejected by a vote of 87%, that it will be locking them out as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

"They want us to accept a poor offer," said Sundberg, who said the main issue is a new pension plan and a two-year wage freeze.

He said the company is proposing a defined contribution plan for new employees which would be different than the pension plan of existing employees.

"It basically creates a two-tier system. The defined contribution plan is a glorified RRSP that we don't see how anyone could retire on," said Sundberg.

Greyhound is also offering a $5 increase per employee in drug and health benefits in the third year of the contract, which falls far short of rising drug costs, according to the ATU.

Greyhound spokesman Timothy Stokes said all service be affected, except Toronto to Sudbury, Ottawa to Sudbury and the west.

Sundberg said even the unaffected routes will still be delayed "slightly" due to picketing by ATU members.

Greyhound spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian suggests the company is still dealing with economic issues.

"Obviously, we're concerned," Bastian said. "We would like to resolve this as quickly as possible but we feel we've offered a fair and equitable contract, especially considering the current economic climate. We plan to conduct business as usual until that point."

The ATU said there's a chance the company may attempt to use American drivers to keep routes going between Toronto and U.S. destinations.

The previous collective agreement expired July 1.

According to the Greyhound website, its two busiest Canadian terminals are Ottawa and Toronto.

Last year 4.2 million travellers rode the routes which would be affected by a lockout.

doug.hempstead@sunmedia.ca

-- with files from Antonella Artuso


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