Lack of snowplow operators puts public at risk, says union
CUPE says unfilled jobs are leading to poor snow removal in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality
The union representing snow plow operators in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality says its workers are frustrated they don't have enough people to keep sidewalks and roads clear.
"We had a meeting the other night with some of the operators and they're kind of getting frustrated with what's going on," said Kevin Ivey, president of Local 75 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
"I think a lot of blame gets put on them and it shouldn't be put on them."
Ivey said 13 positions in the department haven't been filled, putting overtime costs through the roof and exhausting workers.
"The bottom line is you can't expect fewer workers to be able to do the same amount of work. The quality of service is going to be affected. We need to fill those vacant positions," he said.
Ivey also believes public safety has been put at risk.
"All you have to do is drive around the city … and places around the schools … where sidewalks weren't done when kids were going to school," said Ivey.
Cecil Clarke, the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said not all the vacant positions are relevant to snow clearing. He said heavy equipment operators from other departments have been given extra shifts to help remove snow.
"When you look at the women and men who were all in service over the holiday season, they did an extraordinary job. Public safety was not compromised nor worker safety," he said.
Clarke said the only time snow clearing equipment has sat idle this winter has been when it has broken down, not because of a lack of workers.
The municipality is in the process of hiring four new heavy equipment operators.
The union and management will meet Wednesday to discuss the issue.