Ottawa

STO prepares for layoffs while OC Transpo stays the course

While OC Transpo says it has no plans to lay off employees, Gatineau's public transit agency says it could soon start sending drivers home if Quebec doesn't relax pandemic restrictions by mid-June.

Gatineau's transit agency plans to send 81 drivers home mid-June as pandemic causes revenues to plummet

The STO is looking to cut service by 70 per cent in June if Quebec doesn't relax pandemic restrictions. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

While OC Transpo says it has no plans to lay off employees, Gatineau's public transit agency says it could soon start sending drivers home if Quebec doesn't relax pandemic restrictions by mid-June.

The Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO) said Thursday it's seen an 85 per cent drop in ridership since March 12, prompting it to cut transit service by half on April 6. The STO said it's losing $3.6 million in revenue as a result.

The STO's board has decided to cut service further on June 15, and lay off 81 workers to help make up its losses and survive the shutdown.

"If we don't get help it will have to be done, there's no question about it," Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told Ottawa Morning Friday. 

"We want public transit to be efficient after this crisis. People will need it even more because they'll have less money to afford cars."

In a statement to members on its website, CUPE Local 5910, the union representing STO workers, said the transit agency originally wanted to lay off 110 employees.

"We reaffirm our opposition to this economic measure and continue to believe that the employer is doing the wrong thing by abandoning its employees in the already stressful situation that we all live in," the statement said in French. 

Passengers wearing protective face masks board a train on Ottawa's Confederation Line. (Jonathan Dupaul/CBC)

No layoffs at OC Transpo

The Toronto Transit Commission announced Thursday it's laying off 1,200 workers, and Vancouver's TransLink said Monday it plans to lay off nearly 1,500 employees. 

Ottawa isn't going that route, however: OC Transpo boss John Manconi said laying off workers could cost the city more in the long run.

"If you're going to do layoffs, I believe you've got to have a date to work to, and right now there's way too many variables and so we're not contemplating layoffs," he told CBC on Thursday.

"Even if it was a month or two, the ramp-down and then ramp-back-up costs would quickly evaporate the savings."

John Manconi, Ottawa's general manager of transportation services, said laying off workers could cost OC Transpo more in the long run. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Manconi said another concern is that if part of the fleet sits idle, maintenance and safety inspection would lapse, and catching up when service resumes could also prove costly. The same goes for drivers, who might need to refresh their training.

"To get any substantial savings, if you were going to contemplate layoffs you'd have to reduce the service more than what we've done right now," he said.

In fact, OC Transpo has brought in extra contractors to do enhanced cleaning of the fleet.

"There is no way that I'm going to compromise our operators, safety and the safety of our customers," Manconi said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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