Contracting bus maintenance will put public at risk, Calgary Transit workers say

Calgary Transit workers want the city to reconsider contracting out fleet maintenance, arguing the move could lead to safety and reliability issues.

Councillor Sean Chu says contracting out the work will save the city money

Transit workers whose jobs are to be outsourced picketed in front of the Victoria Park bus barns on Saturday. They say contracting out bus and LRT maintenance is a bad idea. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Calgary Transit workers want the city to reconsider contracting out its fleet maintenance.

Workers from the union that represents Calgary Transit picketed out in the cold on Saturday at the Victoria Park bus barns, arguing the move could lead to safety and reliability issues.

A release from the union says outsourcing the role of cleaning LRT stations and bus shelters will lead to facilities being littered with garbage and biohazardous materials.

Mike Mahar, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 583 said there's great concern surrounding the contractors' ability to fulfil services, which also include cleaning and sanitizing buses.

"If that's not done in this, it's a difficult job and it's a large component of it. If it's not done properly, then the buses aren't showing up at the stop in the morning," he told CBC News on Saturday.

Mike Mahar, president of Calgary's transit union, says bus maintenance is an essential component of their service. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Mahar said a contractor can't perform the level of service that staff currently provide. Workers will regularly remove hypodermic needles, bugs and other hazardous materials from buses.

"We have a real concern for not just the sustainability of the service but that component where you've got the riding public getting in vehicles that haven't been serviced properly," he said.

"When you add that, with regards to the other cutbacks they've taken, they're going to be using older equipment and it's going to fail more often."

Mahar said this plan will not save the city money and in the end transit workers will have to fix the deficiencies left by contractors.

"That will be the first thing that disappears and the public's going to be at risk," he said.

Councillor disagrees

Coun. Sean Chu of Ward 4 disagrees that the cuts will cause issues.

"As everybody knows it's no secret that we don't have enough money and the budgets are being cut," he said.

"Quite a few councillors and myself are also pushing for more contracting out to save money, in turn, to save money for the city."

Chu, who is on the standing policy committee for transit and transportation, said contracting services will work since the city will have checks and balances.

"Calgary has told the city council loud and clear, you need to cut your spending. And this is one way," he said.

"Just the manpower alone would save a lot of money."

With files from Helen Pike


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