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TransLink to lay off 1,500 workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

TransLink lays off nearly 1,500 employees
TransLink warned it was losing millions of dollars each day and now it is making drastic cuts to its workforce. Grace Ke reports.

Hundreds of transit workers in Metro Vancouver will receive layoff notices Monday as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

In a statement, TransLink said 1,492 employees will be temporarily let go across the company.

Eighty unionized SkyTrain employees will be laid off with benefits continuing for 90 days.

Tony Rebelo, president of CUPE 7000, which represents SkyTrain workers, said in a statement to employees Monday that there will be a 40 per cent reduction in services, but only a nine per cent reduction in unionized staff. Other staff will receive potential layoff notices according to bumping and redeployment rights.

Unifor, which represents bus drivers, said in a statement Sunday night that it is asking all levels of government to come together and maintain service levels to keep passengers safe and the economy moving.

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However, Translink CEO Kevin Desmond pointed to the transit authority losing $75 million a month amid the pandemic.

“We’re left with no other options. It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families,” he said in the statement.

“I fully expect those affected will be recalled once TransLink returns to regular operations, which we are now planning for back-to-school in September, if consistent with provincial guidelines.”

READ MORE: TransLink cuts service, halts fare increase as ridership plummets over COVID-19

Service will be cut further on buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express beginning this week.

Senior executive salaries and board remuneration will be cut by 10 per cent and costs and program expenditures will also be reduced.

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Cash reserves will also be used to sustain essential service through to the end of the year, TransLink said.

The transit authority has already announced that a fare increase set to come into effect on July 1 will be deferred.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver bus driver, transit worker test positive for COVID-19

While TransLink says it still needs to provide the service for essential workers, the union representing more than 50,000 members says those on the front lines of the pandemic in B.C. will face even longer delays as a result of these cuts.

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“These service cuts mean added stress for health care and other essential workers in the region who depend on transit to get to work each day,” said Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside in a statement.

“Our members have limited transportation options to get to work, and they’ve already been facing lengthier commuting times as a result of previously announced service reductions.

“We need federal and provincial leaders to take emergency measures to support public transit through this pandemic slowdown. It’s essential for those on the front lines of this public health crisis.”

The HEU estimates one in five health care workers depend on public transit.

Details on service changes (provided by TransLink)

SkyTrain Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), Expo and Millennium Line capacity will be further reduced.
    • Expo Line capacity will be reduced by 20 per cent during peak hours. During middays, early evenings and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20 to 40 per cent, depending on the time of day.
      • These cuts are in addition to a 17-per-cent reduction during peak hours and a 20-per-cent reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
    • Millennium Line capacity will be reduced by 15 per cent during peak hours. During middays, early evenings and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20 to 40 per cent, depending on the time of day.
      • These cuts are in addition to a 17-per-cent reduction during peak hours and a 20-per-cent reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
  • Canada Line capacity has been reduced by 18 per cent during peak hours.

Bus Service

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  • Beginning Friday (April 24), 18 bus routes will be suspended.
    • Suspended routes: 15, 32, 50, 68, 105, 131, 132, 143, 222, 480, 414, R3
      • Most of these routes have other transit as alternatives
    • Suspended NightBus routes: N8, N15, N17, N22, N24, N35.
  • Beginning in early May, another 47 routes are expected to be suspended, and frequency reduced on many remaining routes.
    • Expected route suspensions: 251, 252, 262, 280, 281, 282, 370, 563, 564, 044, 170, 181, 182, 231, 241, 247, 258, 345, 352, 354, 391, 393, 394, 395, 416, 509, 602, 603, 604, 606, 608, 614, 616, 617, 618, 619, 719, 722, 733, 741, 744, 748, 749, 791, 042, 150, 179.
    • Precise timing for these suspensions and reductions will be released in due course.
  • TransLink is prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities.
  • Routes selected for suspension either duplicate other routes or are in low-ridership areas.
  • The number of people TransLink can move on buses was reduced to around 30 per cent of normal levels due to physical-distancing measures. Once all planned service reductions are implemented, the number of people TransLink can move will decrease further, to around 20 per cent of normal levels.

SeaBus Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), SeaBus will end service earlier.
    • The last SeaBus sailing of the day will happen at 7:30 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay and 7:45 p.m. from Waterfront.
  • SeaBus will continue sailings every 30 minutes.

West Coast Express Service

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  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), West Coast Express trains One, Three, and Five will continue to operate on existing schedules but will have fewer cars.
  • Trains two and four remain suspended.