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This article was published 12/8/2019 (240 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A day after the city implemented new rules for how transit drivers’ schedules are decided, the president of the transit workers’ union says some drivers are being scheduled to drive articulated buses — even if they aren’t trained to do so.
The so-called "bendy buses" are longer than the typical transit bus and have an accordion-style extension in the middle. Because their turning radius is much larger than a regular bus, drivers need to be trained in how to operate them.
"It’s just causing a lot of stress," Aleem Chaudhary, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, told the Free Press on Sunday. "The city is using our members and our riding public as pawns in a game that they’re playing, and we’re just wondering what’s going on."
The ATU provided the Free Press with an email from a transit worker that appeared to suggest he was scheduled to drive an articulated bus, but hadn’t been trained to drive one. A spokesman for the ATU said there have been two such instances so far.
In an emailed statement to the Free Press, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg disputed the union’s claims.
"As has always been the case, if a bus operator signed to work on a route requiring specialized training, (Winnipeg) Transit management ensures that the appropriate training is provided before they do the work," the statement said. "This is no different now."
The city’s plan to stop allowing bus drivers to switch shifts or vacation days, or have their seniority considered when choosing their schedules, took effect Saturday. The new rules were outlined in a leaked internal memo circulated on Thursday.
Michael Jack, the city’s chief corporate services officer, told reporters on Thursday the unusual measures are possible partially because the union implemented an overtime ban in June, effectively bringing its collective agreement with the city to an end.
The city gave ATU members a deadline of Aug. 17 to accept its latest — and what Jack said will be its last — offer, and have the full terms of the 2015-2019 collective agreement reinstated and a sign-up allowing operators to choose schedules begin the week of Aug. 19. The union’s last collective agreement with the city expired in January.
"It’s definitely part of the intimidation tactics. There’s just been lots of stress on people so that they would sign the contract and say, ‘OK, I don’t want no headaches. I don’t want to be driving these (articulated) buses,’ " said Chaudhary. "So they get scared and they just say, ‘OK fine, I’ll just take the contract, let’s get this done and over with.’ "