New Brunswick

VIA Rail car restorer layoffs possibly premature

A Moncton company contracted to rebuild light train coaches for VIA Rail issued some employees with two-week layoffs after engineers found a structural problem in the cars' floors two weeks ago.

A Moncton company contracted to rebuild light train coaches for VIA Rail prematurely issued some employees with two-week layoffs after engineers found a structural problem in the cars' floors two weeks ago.

Company president Dick Carpenter was uncertain whether VIA would approve the added work.

On Thursday, John Marginson, VIA's operations COO, said it will approve the work.

"We will authorize that repair and it will be done," Marginson said.

"It’s very surprising, very disappointing, that Mr. Carpenter has taken the very bold, and we feel unnecessary, action to issue layoff notices to his employees."

When CBC informed Carpenter of VIA's comments, he said that he was unaware additional repairs could be approved so quickly. He said he hopes that he can retract layoff notices, but that he would first need to talk to VIA directly.

Carpenter was concerned that 189 employees at Industrial Rail Services could be affected, depending on how long it takes to fix the problem.

Some staff were reassigned to other parts of the production line. "It's in the floor so you can't … well, we've got to resolve the problem," said Carpenter.

"We can't go on with production with the rest of the fleet — we've got a production line here — until we're knowing what we're doing or how we're going to deal with that structural repair."

Carpenter said other companies could also be affected by the situation.

"We have our sub-component shops. Like, we have people that are working on things that are feeding into the production, like over on the mill on Heritage Textiles. There's a lot of people affected there as well, so, it's over 200 people, unfortunately," said Carpenter.

The company is investigating how many of cars have the problem. So far, 12 of the 98 cars in the fleet are in the shop.

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