Video: He only wants to spread a little Christmas cheer but a Coast Mountain Bus driver won’t be wearing his Santa suit on his route this holiday season. Jill Krop speaks with driver Kirk Rockwell about this decision.
Fifty-two-year-old Kirk Rockwell has been driving the bus for Coast Mountain for the last 19 years. For the last 16 of those, he’s been wearing his Santa suit to work over the holidays.
But that may be about to change.
Rockwell says every year he asks the company for permission, or variance card, to wear his suit and gets one.
This year, he has submitted his request as usual, but on December 2, he received a letter from the company, essentially prohibiting him from wearing his costume to work.
He says the letter said his variance card has been cancelled and he needed to return to wearing his regular uniform.
“This is the first year I’ve ever had a problem with the company,” says Rockwell.
He says he refuses to give up his Santa suit even though he is technically in violation of the company uniform policy.
“I have fun doing it and now I am being told I can’t,” says Rockwell. “That means I can’t make people happy.”
Raw video: Bus driver takes passengers on a ride in his Santa suit
CAW 111 president Nathan Woods says the company cited two reason for rejecting Rockwell’s request.
“One is that it would be hard for the public to identify Kirk as a transit operator, and that a Christmas garment that was covering the fare box covered up the cost of the transit service,” says Woods.
Coast Mountain Bus spokesperson Derek Zabel told Global News the company made changes to its uniform policy about a year ago.
“Operators need to be identifiable to the public for a variety of reasons, one would include their personal safety. We had numerous requests from operators to change their uniform to support various causes and charities. By having this uniform policy, it makes it consistent for everybody.”
Zabel says a Santa hat or festive tie would be acceptable in Rockwell’s case, but not a full Santa suit.
But, Woods says Rockwell is helping build goodwill for the company that has more important issues to deal with other than coming down heavy-handed on a transit operator.
“Kirk will be the first to tell you – he’s never had a fare dispute while wearing a Santa suit. He’s never gotten into a fight or had to deal with a belligerent passenger. I think it all comes down to — who wants to get on Santa’s naughty list? Nobody is going to give a hard time to somebody who is so cheery.”
WATCH: Did Coast Mountain go too far in their decision to ban Kick Rockwell’s Santa suit?