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Hundreds of STM buses out of service due to repairs, says union

Click to play video: 'Montreal buses sit idle while waiting for maintenance'
Montreal buses sit idle while waiting for maintenance
WATCH: Hundreds of STM buses are off the road, sitting in garages as they await regular maintenance work. At any given day, up to 30 per cent of the fleet doesn't even leave the garage and that is making it difficult for commuters. Global's Tim Sargeant has more – Feb 8, 2019

Trying to catch an STM bus running on time is proving more and more difficult these days, not just because of the difficult winter weather but also the lack of city buses on Montreal roads.

On Friday afternoon, 563 STM buses were sitting in various garages waiting to be repaired, according to the union representing the maintenance workers.

That represents 31 per cent of the STM’s total fleet of 1,807 buses.

“They have a lot of buses not ready to go on the road,” Martin Paquette, the executive secretary of the maintenance workers told Global News.

More than 500 buses a day have been out of service going back to Jan. 22.

Paquette says there are several factors behind the problems.

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For one, there is a severe labour shortage in mechanics.

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Paquette says vacancies haven’t been filled by STM management since the agency laid off hundreds of workers several years ago.

The union also says the hybrid buses don’t perform well during the winter.

“Technology is not there. It’s not reliable,” he said. Paquette says the largest part of the blame lies directly with the STM.

“We think that’s a lot of fault at the management of the STM,” Paquette said.

The lack of buses on the road means hundreds of hours of service has been cut. On Thursday alone, 246 hours of bus service was cancelled.

But senior officials dispute the allegations made by the union.

CEO Luc Tremblay admits there is a labour shortage, and the hard winter makes is difficult on the mechanics of buses especially hybrids.

But the CEO says the STM is looking to hire more mechanics outside of office hours but the union is making it difficult to fill those time slots.

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“We need to have more night shifts and more weekend shifts,” Tremblay told Global News.

Both sides are in protracted contract talks trying to negotiate a new collective agreement.

However, the labour relations are at a near low and it doesn’t help matters.

“Pressure tactics from the union that we are experiencing right now,” Tremblay said.

Maintenance workers have been without a contract since 2018.

Talks with a mediator are expected to resume the week of Feb. 11.

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