Transit riders to expect delays as WTS begins job action

Winnipeg Transit says 206 service hours could not be completed Monday as transit workers start job action. Edward Djan has more.

Winnipeg Transit workers are now in their first day of job action, with the union potentially warning of escalating action as commuters brace for a bumpier than usual ride.

“It’s astounding with the recruitment and retention issues, in addition to the recent retirement eligibility numbers that council hasn’t stood up and said, ‘What is going on with the department, why is it in such disarray?’” asked Chris Scott, President of the ATU Local 1505.

Winnipeg Transit told commuters to give themselves extra time on Monday due to the potential of an increase in late and cancelled buses.

The City of Winnipeg told CityNews that no routes have been completely cancelled, but Winnipeg Transit could not run 206 hours of service Monday. That number representing about 4 per cent of the 5,685 service hours Winnipeg Transit provides.

The warning about delays and cancellations is due to ATU Local 1505, the union that represents Winnipeg Transit workers refusing as of Monday not to work voluntary overtime.

The action came after union members voted down the City of Winnipeg’s latest job offer.

“We estimate in the office that on a daily basis, 20 to 30 per cent of the service is put out on an overtime basis. My membership is committed to providing the required service to the public, but as such, they [transit workers] are getting burnt out and stressed,” said Scott.

The union says wages, unsafe working conditions, and no improvements to benefits have led them to the point of taking job action.

The union is warning that if they don’t receive what they believe is a fair deal, they may go on a full-on strike.

“They believe in the last eight years the department has declined exponentially and that serious consideration hasn’t been given to the funding, that needs to change.”

In a statement to CityNews, the City of Winnipeg said they are, “unsure what ATU wants at this point,” adding that “the city feels it is premature for ATU be setting a strike deadline without knowing what their membership wants to see in a collective agreement. The city remains committed to bargaining a deal that works for both parties, and is being patient while ATU talks to their members.”

While the city and the union try to hash out a new agreement, advocates say for riders, already poor service due to a lack of funding, is now about to get worse.

It’s why Brian Pincott from Functional Transit Winnipeg is hoping the province could help the City when it comes to funding transit. 

“The province needs to come back to the table, 50-50 funding for the operating of transit and recognize that this is important for all Manitobans. It’s not just Winnipeggers using Winnipeg Transit its people all around Winnipeg using Winnipeg Transit as well,” said Pincott.

Previously when CityNews reached out to the provincial government regarding the 50-50 cost sharing agreement between the city and the province to fund the operating costs of Winnipeg Transit, they said the provincial government would commit to providing a multi-year funding model for municipalities.

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