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As discontent and anger grows in coastal communities affected by the ongoing ferry captains' strike, the Newfoundland and Labrador government says it is taking steps to seek an end to the labour dispute that has dragged on for more than two weeks. In a statement, Furey said a conciliator could "assist the parties involved in resolving outstanding issues to bring an end to the ferry disruptions.
The strike has slashed ferry services on five intraprovincial routes down to the bare bones, and leaders of the affected communities have formed a united front and written to the province, asking for it to enter into arbitration with the Canadian Merchant Services Guild, the union representing the striking captains.
The disruptions began Aug. The captains, who have been without a contract or raise sincehave been asking the government for a pay increase that would bring their compensation in line with other ferry workers. During Wednesday's meeting with the two mayors, Furey also heard from a representative of the Bell Island transportation committee representative.
In St. Brendan's, which is being serviced by one round trip a day, Mayor Veronica Broomfield said the island's tiny economy has nearly ground to a halt. The company that trucks out fish from its plant facility is refusing to idle its vehicle overnight in order to truck its fish across to Newfoundland. Brendan's in the morning, drops its passengers at Burnside, and then returns to the island empty before crossing again in the evening to bring people back to the island, she said, meaning anyone who leaves for a medical appointment, haircut or simply to gas up their car has to stay there all day.
She said everyone has been affected, from an elderly woman who hitched a ride in a speedboat to see her dying brother, to the owner of the only store, who crossed earlier this week to pick up supplies and had to physically block the ferry in order to get it to take him and his goods back to St. Brendan's on what would otherwise have been an empty vessel. Because you're so small, they thinks you don't matter, but we matter," she said. Opposition leader Ches Crosbie said he also supports binding arbitration, as does the the ferry captains union.
According to a news release, Crosbie says the union has agreed to binding arbitration, and that the captains will return to work if the government enters binding arbitration.
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