The city of Ottawa’s transit service will be handing out layoff notices to 345 of its employees by Aug. 3, ahead of the anticipated opening of the Confederation light rail transit (LRT) line at the end of the year.
The city confirmed Tuesday afternoon that 342 of the affected employees are bus drivers.
Senior city staff had previously said the transition to the new LRT trains will lead to a reduction in OC Transpo’s bus operations — especially in the downtown core — as the trains will have a greater capacity than any of Ottawa’s buses.
John Manconi, the city’s general manager of transportation services, warned back in 2016 that OC Transpo expected to downsize its fleet by 170 to 180 buses once the Confederation Line, which will run east-west from Blair to Tunney’s Pasture, is in operation.
While news of the layoffs are no surprise, they are lower than initially projected.
The city said two summers ago it estimated 500 to 600 positions would be cut in the lead up to LRT. Manconi revised that number to between 421 and 480 positions this past May after working with the union representing OC Transpo workers.
In a memo dated Monday, Manconi gave notice that OC Transpo would begin handing out pink slips this week to 345 employees. Those affected will continue to work until December, Manconi said.
Positions were salvaged by moving some staff into jobs related to the Confederation Line and “leaving vacancies unfilled where operationally feasible,” said the memo, addressed to the mayor and city council.
Manconi added it’s possible that the city could reduce the number of layoffs further in the coming months “through ongoing attrition and employee movements.”
“The anticipated last day of employment for impacted staff is December 1, 2018,” Manconi wrote.
The memo noted the city has prepared a “comprehensive plan” to provide support and resources to affected employees, including an information session, interview skills and career planning training.
The consortium building the Confederation Line is expected to deliver the keys to the LRT system on Nov. 2 and the city has said it hopes to have the trains up and running by the end of that month.
The contractor’s original deadline was May 24. Manconi has refrained from promising the handover will occur by the revised Nov. 2 deadline.