TTC says service reductions expected when COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect

Click to play video: 'TTC service reductions expected when COVID vaccine mandate takes effect'
TTC service reductions expected when COVID vaccine mandate takes effect
WATCH ABOVE: The TTC says service reductions are expected when a COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect next month. Brittany Rosen reports – Oct 27, 2021

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) says service reductions are expected when its COVID-19 vaccine mandate comes into effect next month.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the TTC said it has developed “temporary schedules” taking into account employees who will be ineligible to work once the vaccine mandate takes effect on Nov. 21.

“Key among the considerations that went into planning the upcoming temporary service was prioritizing the busiest routes at the busiest times of day — in particular on the bus network,” the statement said.

Read more: TTC to fire employees who do not get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 31

“The Nov. 21 schedules were planned to be reliable and predictable while protecting existing service on the TTC’s busiest bus route corridors at the busiest times of day such as Wilson, Jane, Eglinton, Finch and Lawrence East, among others.”

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The TTC said other routes will see “varying levels” of changes which may be similar to seasonal adjustments made in the summer and December.

Waiting time changes will “generally be minimal,” the statement said, and ridership levels will be “within TTC service standards.”

All routes will operate over the same hours. The TTC said updated schedules will be posted on its website.

The TTC noted that ridership is currently at around 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Read more: TTC prepares for possible worker shortage based on COVID vaccination status disclosure

The transit agency said contingency plans have been under consideration since a vaccine policy was announced earlier this year.

Eighty-eight per cent of the TTC’s 15,090 active employees have shared their vaccination status — including nearly 86 per cent of unionized and 94 per cent of non-unionized employees. The TTC said the “vast majority” are fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated employees or those who haven’t shared their vaccine status by the end of day Nov. 20 will be placed on unpaid leave and will be fired on Dec. 31 if they don’t get the required shots and/or advise of their status by then.

Read more: TTC union walks back telling staff not to disclose COVID-19 vaccination status to employer

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To help fill gaps left by employees who are removed from work, the TTC said it will invite recent retirees back to work on a temporary basis, continue increasing the hiring of new operators, and re-deploy operators who are normally responsible for moving vehicles between divisions to regular service.

Capital constriction projects will also temporarily be deferred as will weekend and nightly early closures to allow shuttle bus operators to be moved to regular service.

“After a review of current staff vaccination compliance numbers, the TTC is confident there will be no service impacts as a result of workforce availability in other work groups,” the statement said.

The TTC said if more employees come forward and report that they are vaccinated, service will be increased.

Click to play video: 'TTC union reverses decision on COVID-19 vaccination status disclosure'
TTC union reverses decision on COVID-19 vaccination status disclosure

“Protecting service for those who need us most and delivering the service that our customers expect of us is my priority,” TTC CEO Rick Leary said.

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“Unfortunately, it does come with some small and temporary reductions in scheduled service compared to October. However, we are moving quickly to hire operators and backfill job openings, and we will begin returning service to budgeted levels as soon as possible …

“I stand firmly behind our vaccination policy. It is the right thing to do to protect the health and safety of our employees, their families and the communities we serve.”

Service cuts an ‘avoidable mistake’: union president

Carlos Santos, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents nearly 12,000 TTC workers released a statement Wednesday criticizing news of the expected service reductions.

“The TTC’s plan to cut public transit service in the wake of Toronto’s economic recovery is an avoidable mistake and a result of the TTC’s own mismanagement,” Santos said.

“Instead of working with the union, the TTC opted to bulldoze their mandatory disclosure policy through, causing a potential staff shortage.”

ATU Local 113 did not agree with the vaccine mandate when it was announced earlier this year, calling it “unlawful.” The union had allegedly told its members not to disclose their vaccination status in September, but reversed their position a short time later.

ATU Local 113 has said that TTC management did not consult the union on its mandatory vaccination policy or provide adequate information. It also said the TTC did not provide reasonable solutions such as regular testing which is offered as options by other employers.

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In Wednesday’s statement, Santos again pointed to regular testing as a “sensible alternative” for those who are not vaccinated.

“These sorts of measures have already been successfully executed in the cities of Brampton, Mississauga and Hamilton and can be safely adopted in Toronto as well.”

— With files from Gabby Rodrigues

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