Ottawa

OC Transpo drivers offered rich incentives to work OT

OC Transpo is offering lucrative incentives to induce bus drivers to work more overtime, as the LRT delay is putting continued stress on Ottawa's transit system, CBC News has learned.

City facing pressing need for bus operators until LRT gets up and running

John Manconi, OC Transpo's general manager, couldn't say at Wednesday's council meeting how much additional pay drivers are making to keep the stressed transit system running. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

OC Transpo is offering lucrative incentives to induce bus drivers to work more overtime, as the LRT delay is putting continued stress on Ottawa's transit system, CBC News has learned.

CBC was sent a list of the incentives to OC Transpo drivers earlier this month, and two drivers confirmed the list of incentives they say management has offered them.

They include various scenarios and incentives, some more lucrative than others.

Drivers who agree to work on one of their days off for an entire scheduling block — say, the summer — will make the usual time-and-a-half overtime rate for the eight-hour day, plus be paid an additional nine hours. Put another way, drivers who take on an extra day of work for a season will be paid 21 hours for a single eight-hour shift.

Drivers who work a "pre-identified" special event, such as an Ottawa Redblacks game, would make an extra nine hours of pay.

In some situations, working 90 minutes of overtime can earn a driver more than eight hours of pay.

OC Transpo management is offering drivers additional incentives to take extra shifts. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Transit system under pressure

Overtime, or OT,  is generally considered a perk by drivers. The bus drivers' union contract stipulates that senior drivers be offered the opportunity to work OT first.

But since OC Transpo management issued pink slips to 345 drivers at the start of August 2018 in anticipation of an LRT start that has yet to materialize, drivers have been leaving.

The city's general manager of transportation, John Manconi, insists there are enough drivers to run the bus system, and that OC Transpo is enforcing the safety regulations that stipulate how much time off drivers must have to rest.

At a finance and economic development committee meeting last month, Manconi acknowledged there were challenges.

"To be honest with you, some people are tired of the overtime and are saying, 'Look, I've got to go see my family this weekend, I can't work every single day,'" Manconi told councillors.

Diane Deans says some councillors are 'out of touch' with commuters who are being affected by late, crowded and cancelled buses. 1:07

Deans asked about 'exorbitant' rates at council

But ahead of Wednesday's contentious meeting of city council on the issue of whether to reduce or freeze transit fares, Manconi told CBC he would not be commenting on the incentive program for drivers.

Coun. Diane Deans, however, asked Manconi about the premiums at council.

"I am told that we are paying exorbitant amounts of money to OC Transpo drivers in an effort to incent them to take rides," Deans said. "I'm told you are paying 10-hour shifts for three hours of work. Is that the case?"

Deans asked Manconi how much the city was paying in OT and premiums, but he could not say, adding that those costs would be included in an upcoming report to council on the lengthening list of costs due the Confederation Line delay.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there. I know we have people leaking documents to the media," Manconi then added. "I just had a discussion with one of the reporters right now and I said if you've got documents … and you want to share that with me I'll gladly comment on them."

Manconi made no mention of asking to see documents when he told CBC he would not be commenting.

On June 4, CBC asked the city to provide comment on this story and included details from the incentives list, but received no answer. The following day, CBC offered to show the list of incentives to an OC Transpo official, but that offer was never taken up. 

A request for OC Transpo monthly overtime payments over the past year made by another CBC reporter on May 16 has also gone unanswered.

The president of the union representing OC Transpo drivers, Clint Crabtree, also did not respond to a request for comment on work conditions or incentives for drivers. 

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