Unions knew OC Transpo layoffs were coming, Blais says

It should be no surprise that up to 600 OC Transpo employees could lose their jobs when light rail opens, the transit commission chairman said Tuesday.

Coun. Stephen Blais said staff have been "very clear" for a long time that the transit operator plans to find $14 to $15 million in operational savings once the new Confederation line opens in 2018 – and that most of that would come from staffing.

"That has been consistently communicated to union leadership and the staff at OC Transpo," Mr. Blais said.

General manager John Manconi said in a memo to council Monday that between 505 and 608 jobs could be lost as construction detours end, the fleet sheds 170 buses and high-capacity trains become the transit workhorses in the core in two years’ time.

But that number could still come down as OC Transpo staff work with the union and staff to lessen the "real impact to real families," Mr. Blais said.

There might be an uptick in retirement, for instance, motivated by possible by-outs or packages for people getting close to their retirement date.

And OC Transpo expects to hire about 70 new train operators, 15 controllers and 10 support staff for the new line, which, depending on interest, could be staffed internally from displaced union members.

More drivers could also be hired back for inevitable stage two construction detours, as well, if expected federal funding comes in this year to keep the 2018 groundbreaking on track, Mr. Blais said.

The 12.5-km rail line will completely overhaul the city’s transit network, with most bus routes connecting passengers to major train stations rather than driving across town and through the core.

The transit commission approved a new route network last month to solidify this change, and the transformation will cut out about 500,000 bus operation hours of labour a year.

Each train is the equivalent of eight or nine articulated buses, Mr. Manconi said in his memo.

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on July 12.