Manitoba

Winnipeg Transit union says city should reverse layoffs as economy preps for partial opening

The union representing Winnipeg Transit workers says the city won't be ready to handle the amount of passengers getting back on the buses as the economy reopens on May 4.

Amalgamated Transit Union says there won't be enough buses on the road as economy revives

Winnipeg Transit is moving to a reduced schedule on the same day the province eases restrictions on business and recreation. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Physical distancing could take a back seat on packed Winnipeg buses when the province's reopening plan kicks into gear on Monday, says the head of the  Amalgamated Transit Union.

The city announced last week it would lay off 253 full- and part-time drivers because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on ridership and revenue.

"We are urging the city to reconsider the layoffs and the reduction in service because we anticipate a lot of problems and this is not the time to push through with that plan," said ATU 1505 president Romeo Ignacio.

According to the city, ridership has dropped 72 per cent compared to the same time frame in 2019, leading to a 74-per-cent reduction in revenue.

The ATU believes with some businesses and recreational facilities reopening on May 4, there will be more passengers and the city won't be able to get many more buses on the road.

"We don't have enough manpower," Ignacio said. "(For) the social distancing that's required, we need all the [253] members back." 

The union met with the city Wednesday morning and there was no change in the plan for the service reductions and layoffs.

Romeo Ignacio of the Amalgamated Transit Union says there aren't enough drivers to meet demand as the economy picks up pace after reopening. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The city sent a statement later in the day saying it had not received final details of the province's plan until it was released publicly.

"We are now reviewing the plan together with department directors to determine how the province's plan applies to city operations and how we move ahead," wrote a spokesperson.

Regardless of passenger loads, the city is providing all drivers and inspectors with protective masks to use while on shift.

Ignacio says the ATU has been asking for the protective gear for some time, but welcomes the equipment for his members.

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