FREDERICTON, N.B. — Angry truck drivers swarmed New Brunswick’s capital Friday in the second protest in a month over rates being charged on a government-sponsored work site.
As many as 300 aggregate haulers blasted their horns as they drove toward the provincial legislature in Fredericton.
They are angry because they feel they are being prevented from seeing fuller government-scale wages because the province’s newest highway is being built by a private sub-contractor.
Maritime Road Development Corp. (MRDC) is building the four-lane Fredericton-to-Moncton Highway. MRDC has, in turn, hired Miller Infrastructure to organize the trucking of gravel and other aggregates for the roadwork.
“(The low wages) affects my family because I have three trucks sitting in the dooryard. I can’t afford to make a living for them,” says Fredericton driver Matthew Novac, on the front steps of the legislature.
Novac pulled his trucks off of the road last September because Miller’s wages weren’t enough to pay for high fuel costs or basic vehicle maintenance.
Another trucker, who wished not to be identified, says his rigs are about to be repossessed because the rates are so poor, despite only having another $4,000 to pay off the debt.
Yet another who wished to be unnamed says the financial stress may cost him his marriage.
Doras Stennick, spokesman for the group, explains that many families are feeling the stress of pay rates which are about half of the government pay rate.
“What we are trying to do is to get the government to take notice of the situation that we’re in and go to bat for us with MRDC and Miller,” he says.
“All we want to do is sit down with the companies and negotiate a fair rate.”
Stennick believes the contract among the government, MRDC and Miller had planned to offer the higher government rate. But a source has told Stennick that the contract didn’t specify the rate, so MRDC is walking away with a 35 to 50 per cent of the money meant to pay the truck rates.
Stennick adds that the hiring of the subcontractor Miller points to that fact, because it adds another layer of contract between the government that offers the work and the drivers who provide it.
Lack of other construction work in the province helps Miller keep the wages low, he adds.
For its part, the Ministry of Transportation has said there is nothing it can do to influence the contract.
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