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Unifor says transit lay-offs unnecessary and reckless

April 16, 2020 - 3:00 AM

VANCOUVER—Translink’s threats to cut to transit operator staffing levels, and therefore transit service, is an irresponsible move that would do more harm than good during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Unifor.

“Tens of thousands of essential services workers rely on transit to get to work,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Cutting transit service would make life even more difficult for working COVID-19 heroes, and ultimately the people they have been dutifully serving.”

The lay-off threats from Translink has Unifor concerned about more crowding, making social distancing on transit more difficult and hinder the commutes of essential services workers

B.C. Transit has not announced any plans to reduce service levels.

Unifor is calling on all levels of government to come together to maintain transit service levels to keep passengers safe and to keep the struggling Metro Vancouver economy moving during an already challenging time.

“Our elected leaders must sort it out and get it done. All jurisdictions have a role to play to maintain regional transit levels,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Translink shouldn’t treat the public like guinea pigs in a budget experiment.”

McGarrigle also noted that in many lower wage essential service workplaces such as retail and cleaning, women and workers of colour are over-represented.

The union also says that pass-ups resulting from COVID-19 precautions that reduce bus capacity are already leading to social distancing violations and abuse of transit operators. 

“When you’ve been passed up two or three times, you’re going to fight your way on to the next bus, no matter the recommended distancing requirements,” said Balbir Mann, Unifor Local 111 president, representing transit operators. “Many passengers are taking out their frustration on transit operators.”

Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).