The president of the transit union in Nova Scotia says the government is not doing enough to recruit new drivers and retain the current ones in the Halifax area.
Shane O'Leary is the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union in Halifax and says transit workers are underpaid for their work in the province.
"Money will attract the employees," O'Leary told CityNews.
"They'll line up at the door for the right wages."
O'Leary says almost $2 million of the $3.9 million jump in the cost of transit funding from the 2019-2020 fiscal year to the 2021-2022 fiscal year has been in overtime wages for operators.
Something O'Leary says is due to the lack of drivers in the HRM.
"You're going to get a driver that hasn't seen his kid graduate or hasn't gone to his daughter's wedding because he can't get a day off," O'Leary said.
O'Leary explained wages for operators in Halifax are five to six per cent below average.
"People that have many years of work left in them and just do not want to work for this city right now," said O'Leary.
While contract talks are slated for October of this year, O'Leary says the prior contract expired over a year ago, and the union has been ready to negotiate.
"Over a year ago, these problems could have been repaired, over a year ago we could have sat down and negotiated better wages and better work, over a year ago council, the mayor, could have put their name on a new contract saying that this is a better place to work," O'Leary said.
O'Leary says safety is also becoming a more significant concern for drivers, with crime on transit increasing along with the lack of protection at bus terminals.
The combination of all these elements, O'Leary says, results in the issues the city is facing today and the potential loss of other transit functions like the free New Year's Eve rides with extended service times.
"We don't have the manpower for New Year's eve - we don't have the manpower for daily work," O'Leary explained.
O'Leary went on to say government could have prevented a lot of the current ongoing problems with a timely and improved contract.
"We're front-line zeros; we really are," O'Leary said.