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Union leader blames burn out for soaring absenteeism among HSR drivers

Union head says HSR workers are prepared to strike, if necessary to get a fair deal. CHML

The head of the union that represents Hamilton bus drivers is blaming “understaffing” and “underfunding” for the current crisis at the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR).

READ MORE: HSR director questioned about morale as driver absenteeism soars

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 107 President Eric Tuck says reliance on chronic overtime, as drivers are asked to work up to 68 hours per week, is combining with poor working conditions to result in “burned out” employees.

Tuck says that, in turn, is fuelling the 19 per cent rate of absenteeism among HSR drivers which resulted in an average of 23 buses not showing up each day in October throughout the city.

Tuck notes that “people’s immune systems get run down, they start suffering from fatigue and they start suffering from stress.” He adds that, as a union, “we don’t want to see our transit system, by design, run into the ground.”

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READ MORE: Absent buses frustrate HSR riders, Hamilton city officials

Hamilton’s general manager of Public Works, Dan McKinnon, rejects claims of widespread burnout saying “we’re not seeing that with the evidence that we have in our system.”

McKinnon adds that “there’s a small group of drivers who are quite happy to work as much overtime as you can give them, and those are the folks who seem to have the fewest number of sick days.”

He does acknowledge that the city is letting a lot of transit riders down and “we don’t want to see that happen.”

In response to the crisis, an emergency meeting of HSR riders has been scheduled for November 14 at Hamilton City Hall.

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