Transit union says schedule is ‘a mess’ as OC Transpo adapts to mandatory breaks

OC Transpo is hiring 80 new bus drivers to accommodate a new mandatory 30-minute break requirement as the union representing the operators warns the “whole schedule is a mess.”

New Canadian Labor Code requirements state that bus drivers must be given a 30-minute break for every five hours of work. Transit Services Acting General Manager Troy Charter says schedules were adjusted on April 24 as part of spring service changes to give operators a break.

“OC Transpo remains committed to working collaboratively with ATU Local 279 and other OC Transpo employees to implement these complex scheduling changes and employee action feedback where possible,” Charter said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

However, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union says union members are “not doing well” as OC Transpo adjusts the schedule.

“They had two years to prepare for this and they sat around until the last second, until the government said they had to comply,” ATU Local 279 President Clint Crabtree told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron on Thursday.

Crabtree says that OC Transpo putting the 30-minute break into the schedule has created “total chaos” with work and bus schedules.

“Buses don’t show up, people run out of buses, my members stay at stations where they’re supposed to relieve buses and those buses don’t show up so they have to go back to the depot to catch a bus.” Crabtree said. “The whole schedule is a mess right now and people are very upset and frustrated.”

Crabtree estimates that OC Transpo needs to hire 200 more operators to cover 30-minute breaks, attrition and retirements.

“They need more operators,” says Crabtree.

Charter says OC Transpo has launched a “heavy recruitment drive and more training sessions throughout the year.”

“To support these changes required by the Canadian Labor Code and meet the new needs of the service, the Council approved funding for 80 more bus operator positions,” Charter said.

“In addition to these new positions, OC Transpo has proactively identified the need to hire an additional 200 new operators to fill upcoming openings as a result of attrition, LRT expansion, retirements and the shifting of employees to new roles in the organization”.

Crabtree asks OC Transpo to address scheduling issues before ridership increases in the fall, especially as the transit service is trying to increase ridership.

“Service is going to be absolutely chaotic in the fall,” Crabtree said when college, university and high school students return in September. “The service will be an absolute nightmare in the fall for the public and my members.”

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