TTC subway closure cancelled for 2nd weekend in a row after longstanding union agreement nixed

The TTC says two months of weekend closures are at risk of being cancelled after a longstanding agreement allowing transit workers to do overtime was ended by their union.

Scrapped agreement means there aren't enough bus drivers to operate shuttles during closure, says TTC

The schedule of regular weekend subway closures has been thrown off by a labour disagreement between the transit workers union and the TTC. (Giordano Ciampini/Canadian Press)

The TTC says two months of weekend closures are at risk of being cancelled after a longstanding agreement allowing transit workers to do overtime was ended by their union.   

So far, two planned Line 1 closures — last weekend and this coming weekend — have been put off due to a shortage of bus drivers. The TTC would need those drivers to operate shuttle buses to replace subway service.

That may be good news for TTC riders looking forward to a long weekend of cross-town travel, but the TTC says the work will inevitably have to be made up, potentially extending the already years-long schedule of repair and improvement work. 

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross told CBC Toronto that the cancellations are happening because the transit workers' union, ATU Local 113, opted not to extend an agreement that allows its members to work 64 hours a week.

The agreement, in place for "years and years and years," said Ross, expired on April 30, and now, "our operators are no longer able to work more than 48 hours a week."

Union says TTC needs to hire more

John De Nino, an executive board member at ATU Local 113, says the union decided to pull the plug on the agreement to push the TTC to hire more staff. 

"With 11,000 people, there are approximately 1,000 vacant positions," said De Nino. "The TTC has chosen not to replace those positions but to cover their deficiencies with overtime." 

De Nino says he fears that vacancies will lead the TTC to try and contract out work to other transit providers, like Metrolinx. 

Bus drivers who work during the week can no longer pinch hit on weekends during closures 'because they’re maxed out with their 48 hours,' said TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. (TTC)

To fill in the gaps left by employees no longer able to work weekend overtime, the TTC is now in the process of hiring and training 108 new operators so that weekend closures can go ahead beginning in July.

But De Nino dismissed the new hires as a "Band-Aid' solution, saying that other departments, such as maintenance, are more severely understaffed and more in need of new hires to keep the system functional. 

Making up lost work time in the future

As the TTC works to hire and train new staff,  the seven closures scheduled until the end of June "remain at risk," said Ross. 

"We'll have to obviously make up that time somehow," he continued, suggesting that they may be able to shut down two sections of track in a single weekend to catch up.  

The closures, to the chagrin of transit-reliant Torontonians, have become a regular fixture of weekends in the city — and Ross says they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

"I wish I could say there's an end in sight," he said, adding that installing automatic train control on Line 1 will keep the closures rolling at least into 2020.