Fredericton city bus drivers get local shopping bonus in new contract

·2 min read

Fredericton's bus drivers have signed a new three-year contract with the city, and to sweeten the deal, it came with a local signing bonus that will help shops in the city.

Each of the 43 drivers is getting $350 to spend specifically at shops on Fredericton's north and south side — $175 Downtown Fredericton dollars and $175 Business Fredericton North dollars.

"This is about 15 grand that we get to give back to the shops on the north and south side of the river," said Michael Dubee, president of CUPE Local 1783, which represents the drivers.

"We all shop here whether it's groceries, gas, or clothing. So we can put it back into the community instead of giving it to Amazon."

The transit drivers brought the idea to the city in negotiations.

"A couple of their members suggested it to their own bargaining team, and they brought it to the bargaining table and I heard about it," said Mayor Mike O'Brien. "I thought that was a pretty special gesture on their part."

The city will buy the Business Fredericton North and Fredericton Downtown dollars and give them out to the drivers.

O'Brien said he can't remember a time when this kind of bonus was agreed upon.

"Not to say that something like this never happened in different cities somewhere else in Canada, but it's pretty unique. And I wouldn't be surprised if this was almost a first."

The new contract will see a wage increase of 1.8 per cent this year and 1.6 next, in keeping with New Brunswick's Consumer Price index, said Dubee.

The total additional cost of the new contract to the city over the three years is $136,054, which includes the one-time signing bonus.

"They've been on the front lines themselves for the last year," said O'Brien. "Moving people around. And we never did eliminate our buses. We had to cut back our amount of people who could travel on a bus due to Covid. But they were there every day, just like other frontline workers."

The Transit drivers had been without a contract since October 2019, but Dubee said the union was conscious of the financial impact of the pandemic on the city during negotiations.

The drivers "were more pleased with the overall packagem" he said. "When you are having negotiations, you're concerned for your family and you're in the middle of a pandemic so you don't know what the outcome's going to be."