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Hamilton warns of possible HSR disruptions due to staff not vaccinated against COVID

A HSR bus in Westdale. Don Mitchell / Global News

The city of Hamilton is alerting bus customers of potential service disruptions tied to its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for staffers.

Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) is warning riders they may have to modify high-frequency routes, prioritize schedules for morning and afternoon, and monitor troubled passages as early as the start of next month when a vaccination deadline kicks in.

“HSR anticipates potential service disruptions related to employees who have not yet fully complied with the policy,” the agency said in a release Friday afternoon.

“At this point, HSR expects up to 10 per cent of bus operators in Hamilton to be potentially out of compliance with the policy beginning as early as November 4, 2021.”

Maureen Cosyn Heath, the city’s director of transit, estimates the 10 per cent represents about 70 to 90 drivers whose status remains unknown.

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Read more: Hamilton’s transit union calls city’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy “too far-reaching”

“What’s difficult to predict, of course, is the true extent of what it is that we’re dealing with,” Cosyn Heath told Global News.

“So we have isolated the work assignments of the people who remain in the unclassified category so that we can start determining how best to add additional resources.”

In the note, the city went on to urge HSR employees to comply with the policy and get vaccinated or participate in the alternate COVID-19 rapid-resting program as directed.

Next Thursday, all city employees who have not submitted proof of two doses of an approved vaccine will have to enter that testing program, according to the policy.

 

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The HSR is recommending customers download the HSRnow app on their devices for up-to-date information amid the possible disruptions.

We do not believe that we need to take the step of pre-canceling service,” said Cosyn Health.

“What it will mean for riders is the potential for some late buses or missed runs, which is regretful in advance.”

Hamilton’s transit union made their displeasure with the city’s vaccination policy known in September and allege the municipality failed to get input from union members.

Read more: Hamilton councillors vote for pilot offering free transit to kids amid ridership recovery effort

In a letter to councillors, the ATU Local 107 called the city’s “bypassing” of the union “untenable” and “unlawful.”

President Eric Tuck previously told Global News that no employer, government body, or agency should have the right to make vaccinations a condition of employment unless it was a prerequisite “clearly spelled out” prior to employees being hired.

However, the union has been recommending to it’s 800-plus members get the shot, according Cosyn Heath.

“They’ve been instrumental over the last little while in encouraging their members to indicate whether they’re fully vaccinated or whether they intend to participate in the rapid testing,” Cosyn Health said.

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