Ottawa

Bus drivers' union standing by their man

Whistleblower Chris Grover just wants to see things improve for drivers and the public, and is "still an employee of OC Transpo," ATU Local 279's president confirmed Tuesday.

Whistleblower Chris Grover 'still an employee of OC Transpo,' ATU Local 279 president confirms

ATU Local 279 president Clint Crabtree says driver Chris Grover gave an accurate description of working conditions at OC Transpo when he went public last week. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

The president of the union representing OC Transpo drivers is defending a member who blew the whistle on scheduling practices at the public transit agency.

Last week, Chris Grover called bus schedules "works of fiction" and called out OC Transpo management for failing to ensure adequate recovery time between shifts for drivers.

"For years we've been basically watching the place burn down around us. The schedules have gone from worse to, I don't know what's worse than worse," Grover told CBC. "To be frank, it's taken me a couple of years to grow the guts … to come out. I'm putting my job on the line."

OC Transpo driver Chris Grover told CBC he was 'terrified' of the repercussions after he spoke out. (CBC)

On Tuesday, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 president Clint Crabtree told Ottawa Morning Grover had given an accurate account of the situation at OC Transpo, and said his union will stand behind him.

"Chris Grover is still a member of [ATU Local] 279 and an employee at OC Transpo," Crabtree said. "I think Chris made that statement … out of concern. He just wants to see runtime schedules and recovery time get better for the public and for the members of [ATU Local] 279."

Crabtree agreed drivers don't have enough time for meal or washroom breaks.

"They're human beings, and they need to be able to get a break to use the facilities [and] grab something to eat," Crabtree said. "If they do take the washroom break, then they are running late, and who suffers? It's the public that suffers."

John Manconi, general manager of transportation services, said he wishes Chris Grover had talked to him before writing that open letter. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

After Grover went public, OC Transpo boss John Manconi said the driver's suggestions for fixing the scheduling system are untenable.

"He takes great passion in apologizing to the customer, but doing what he's suggesting would reduce service dramatically," Manconi said.

Crabtree said the union is working with management to address problems with scheduling, which he said worsened after this fall's LRT launch.

"We think that there should be a better schedule in the spring," he said. "It's been a very difficult year for my members. They are frustrated, and they just want to see things improved."

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