Transit surplus fuelled by staff turnover, union says

While city councillors mull options for how best to allocate Winnipeg Transit's projected $12.8-million surplus, the union representing its bus drivers says the public agency will continue to bleed staff unless safety concerns are addressed.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/01/2019 (1488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

While city councillors mull options for how best to allocate Winnipeg Transit’s projected $12.8-million surplus, the union representing its bus drivers says the public agency will continue to bleed staff unless safety concerns are addressed.

A recent report submitted to the public works committee outlines the largest chunk of the projected surplus — $5.6 million — stems from higher-than-expected staff turnover, with more driver resignations and retirements than the transit authority had anticipated.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary said the turnover is directly linked to growing frustration over the perceived foot-dragging on safety concerns.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary says staff turnover is linked to frustration over the perceived foot-dragging on safety concerns in buses. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We’re having a hard time keeping employees and, obviously, the working conditions are a big part of that. We have people retiring one after the other,” he said Friday.

“There’s an exodus, not only from new people coming in and deciding it’s not for them, but also from people who have been here for years and are saying, ‘Enough is enough.'”

Finance committee chairman Coun. Scott Gillingham wouldn’t commit Friday to voting in favour of re-investing the projected transit surplus into safety initiatives, saying he needed to do more due diligence before making up his mind.

The councillor for St. James said while he’d like to see the surplus used on transit, there are a number of possible initiatives. He made it clear he wants to see that decision made as part of the 2019 budget process.

“There are safety initiatives, including (driver) shields. There’s low-income bus passes. Those have all been discussed, and perhaps some of those retained earnings could be contemplated as funding sources for that,” Gillingham said.

When asked if the staff turnover within Winnipeg Transit underscores the need for council to move quickly to address safety concerns, he said it’s something he’d like to discuss with the agency.

“I wanted to ask for Transit to give explanation of, or to speak to more fully, why the turnover? What’s the reason behind the significant turnover levels? I don’t have an answer for that,” he said.

“We, as council, we’re trying to listen, certainly to our transit department, to the voice of ATU, and to the ridership as well.”

On Tuesday, the city’s public works committee voted 3-1 in favour of expediting plans to install shields on the fleet of 630 buses over the next 18 months.

The move came at the behest of Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), in response to concerns raised by drivers who showed up at the meeting to push for action. The lone committee member to oppose the motion was Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).

Winnipeg Transit had already proposed a $3.15-million plan to install shields over the next three years, a time frame the union had said was too slow.

Since the motion was passed by public works, it will now go to the executive policy committee for a vote and, if successful, onto city council for final approval.

The message from Chaudhary was simple: pay now or pay later.

“It can be done within 18 months. The money is there. The stress from the job is already costing the City of Winnipeg money, with people going off on sick time due to stress,” he said.

On Tuesday, the city's public works committee voted to install safety shields on the city's fleet of 630 buses over the next 18 months. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“Whenever a person gets assaulted on the job, they’ll go up on Workers Compensation Board or benefits, plus the replacement of the job. It’s all costing them money. The stress of the job is costing the City of Winnipeg money.”

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

History

Updated on Friday, January 11, 2019 11:35 PM CST: Updates ward names.

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