FREDERICTON, N.B. — Hundreds of protesting truckers, angry over upcoming work on the new Fredericton-Moncton highway, swarmed New Brunswick’s capital Friday.
About 250 truckers parked their tractors and pick-ups outside the Fredericton offices of the Maritime Road Development Corp. (MRDC), as well as the New Brunswick legislature and the offices of a Fredericton sub-contractor, Miller Infrastructures Ltd.
“The basic consensus is we are going to do whatever it takes,” says Doras Stennick, an owner/operator from French Lake, N.B., who organized the event.
The dispute surrounds the wages truck drivers are being paid to haul aggregate and asphalt for a Miller Infrastructures, the sub-contractor hired by the Maritime Road.
Stennick says the truckers are getting 35 to 40 per cent less than the base rate set by the provincial government. They want to be paid using the same wage scale as drivers holding contracts with the provincial government.
MRDC holds the contract from the government to build the new four-lane route linking Fredericton directly to Moncton. In turn, it has contracted much of the work to Miller Infrastructures with the highway slatted for completion by Nov. 30.
Under the partnership arranged under the previous provincial Liberal government, the work does not fall under the Crown Construction Act. The Act allows the government to set rules of tender and payment.
The provincial government therefore has no ability to intervene in the dispute, says Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Staeban.
“We may as well park our trucks in the yard and leave them until we are paid a fair rate because there is no sense — if we go to work right now, all we are going to do is go in the hole,” Stennick explains.
Drivers from across New Brunswick participated in the protest, Stennick says, adding that meetings have been held throughout the province to unite truckers on this issue.
As part of the drivers’ protest, they filled the legislature visitor gallery while Premier Bernard Lord debated the province’s budget. They then left as a group after only a few minutes.
“We wanted to come and show the government that we are strongly united,” says Stennick. He insists that more protests are planned if a solution is not found.