July 22, 2014 6:45 pm

Union representing suspended Skytrain worker says punishment inappropriate; issues flagged previously

WATCH: TransLink’s Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelsey answers questions about  Monday’s system-wide shutdown at a press conference

VANCOUVER – Translink says it was human error that led to Monday’s SkyTrain shut down, causing about five hours of commuter chaos.

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An experienced electrician was installing a new circuit breaker for the Evergreen Line at a power distribution panel when he accidentally tripped the main breaker feeding the critical systems at SkyTrain’s operations centre, which caused a system-side shut down of train controls.

The electrician has now been suspended.

The union representing the electrician, CUPE 7000, says the suspension is troubling.

“Translink’s decision to suspend a power technician before a proper investigation had been held is not only inappropriate but raises serious concerns about health and safety and how Skytrain employees are given directions,” reads a statement from CUPE 7000.

CUPE says the supervisor who directed the electrician to do the work that ultimately led to the five hour shutdown was not suspended.

The union says their members flagged an issue with the panel with management, but it was ignored.

“The panel is of poor design. This problem, regarding the hazards and potential for failure, is well known by the employer and was raised on several occasions by our members. This panel should not be worked on during Skytrain operating hours. But they ignored this information,” said CUPE National representative Louise Oetting.

CUPE has launched its own investigation of the incident.

“The employer has agreed that we mustn’t candy-coat the issue, as people want answers.  Their answer was to throw our member under the train,” says Oetting.

The power outage halted trains for about five hours and many people had to be escorted from stopped trains along the tracks.

The outage also impacted TransLink’s ability to communicate with customers over the PA systems.

Translink says every available bus was used to help get people home and employees from all areas were called in to help.

“Our trains are reliable 95% of the time, but we know that is little consolation for customers who are delayed for hours when we do have a significant breakdown,” says Doug Kelsey, TransLink Chief Operating Officer.

“Two major disruptions in one week is unprecedented, and the two incidents are completely unrelated.”

In a press conference, Kelsey says their system has issues just like any other in the world, and they hope to learn from what happened on Monday.

He says there is no inquiry necessary however, because Translink knows human error caused the breakdown on the Skytrain system.

The previous incident, last Thursday, was blamed on a computer glitch.

TransLink says they will offer a free day of transit on BC Day, August 4, with more details to be announced later.

 

© Shaw Media, 2014

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