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Calgary transit union president warns of service disruptions related to city vaccination policy

Click to play video: 'Calgary transit union president warns of service disruptions related to city vaccination policy' Calgary transit union president warns of service disruptions related to city vaccination policy
WATCH: Calgarians could see transit service disruptions because of staff shortages, according to the head of the city's transit union. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, he says it's a combination of unprecedented resignations and retirements, layoffs and workers now on leaves of absence because of the city’s COVID-19 vaccination policy. – Nov 12, 2021

Calgary Transit operators are leaving the job at a rapid rate and the union representing them says it’s going to impact people taking the bus or riding the train.

“The resignations are unprecedented,” said Mike Mahar, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583.

Mahar said since January 175 employees have either left or served their intention to leave.

In the last two or three weeks alone he said there have been about 25 resignations.

Adding to that, Mahar said there are 12 staff members who are on an unpaid leaves of absence because of the city’s vaccination policy.

Read more: 85% of City of Calgary employees fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of deadline

“They don’t want to participate in the mandatory vaccination policy and/or they’ve just had enough. They’ve struggled with how the employer has dealt with a pandemic for almost two years now,” Mahar said.

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The deadline for city employees to report their COVID-19 vaccination status was Nov. 1. Workers who aren’t fully vaccinated need provide a negative rapid test result twice per week in order to stay on the job.

If an unvaccinated worker misses a test, they’ll be put on a 30-day unpaid leave of absence.

Mahar thinks the city will end up losing drivers as a result of unintentional non-compliance with the rapid testing.

Read more: Calgary Transit to lay off hundreds as COVID-19 pandemic leads to drop in ridership

“They have agreed to participate in the rapid testing and through no fault of their own they’ve not qualified based on the very precise rules within the policy,” Mahar said.

In a statement to Global News, a city of Calgary spokesperson said:

“We have put some employees on a leave of absence for not complying, however, we do not anticipate any significant service disruptions as a result. We are currently reviewing the data and will share updated figures later this month.”

Mahar maintains buses are crowded and the system has been running a skeleton level of staffing.

In May 2020, more than 400 transit workers were laid off because of low ridership.

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Mahar expects to see the 75 remaining laid off transit workers back on the job by the end of the year.

According to the city, Calgary Transit is still operating approximately 85 per cent of pre-COVID service with about 40 per cent of pre-COVID ridership.

“Depending on the circumstance, we have a number of strategies that we can use to adjust service to respond to various situations like adjusting bus schedules, using overtime to cover smaller pieces of work and utilizing our spare operators to cover work. Currently, there are no major service impacts to our service due to the vaccination policy,” said Stephen Tauro, Communications and Information Lead with Calgary Transit.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Majority of City of Edmonton employees vaccinated, outliers cause service disruptions for ETS' COVID-19: Majority of City of Edmonton employees vaccinated, outliers cause service disruptions for ETS
COVID-19: Majority of City of Edmonton employees vaccinated, outliers cause service disruptions for ETS – Oct 28, 2021

 

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