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Calgary Transit loses 430 employees, cuts 25 routes, reduces hours on 40 others

More than 500 Calgary Transit employees will be affected by service cuts, with 430 of those being layoffs, as the city deals with plummeting ridership in the wake of the coronavirus.

In addition, 25 routes will be temporarily suspended, 30 weekday routes will be impacted and 19 weekend routes will have changes. Here are those route changes.

The city made the official announcement late Thursday afternoon, though Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 583 officials told LiveWire Calgary earlier this week that 17,000 hours were going to be cut.

The city said they tried to limit the impact on Calgary Transit riders.

“The last thing we wanted to do was to put customers at risk, because on a daily basis, there’s still about 100,000 of them riding,” said Calgary Transit GM, Doug Morgan.

Morgan said the city would save roughly $2 million per week with the transit service reductions. The city is losing roughly $12 million to $14 million a month, including lost revenue from parking and advertising.

Roughly two-thirds of personnel laid off were transit operators and one third maintenance workers – with a “smattering” of others.

Morgan said that reductions primarily affected routes that duplicated others. Those included ones that may have bisected other routes, or those that worked in a counter-cyclical direction. It includes some express routes, Morgan said.

“You’ll also see on weekends and weekdays, they’ll be some reductions in frequency,” Morgan said. Routes in some areas will end at 9 p.m.

He said they will continue to monitor things closely as Calgary enters the first phase of the relaunch.

Deeper impact to dozens more transit personnel: Union

In addition to the 430 layoffs, more than 70 people will be redeployed to other jobs, said ATU 583 president, Mike Mahar.

Mahar told LiveWire Calgary on Thursday evening that other employees were put in different, lower paying jobs as a result of the cuts.

He said the preventative maintenance positions and fleet attendant positions were wiped out. Mechanics tradespeople are now being asked to do what Mahar called more “semi-skilled” maintenance jobs.

“I don’t know what savings they find in that, but certainly, whatever the mechanics aren’t doing in looking after the fleet they’ll be doing on these other jobs,” he said.

The redeployment puts some employees in different job units, many with substantially lower wages and hours. Mahar gave the example of some bus operators being sent to community shuttles. That comes with a 30 per cent pay decrease and half the hours, he said.

Many of the remaining jobs aren’t secure, either, he said. Some employees with anywhere between 10 and 30 years service are put in positions that Mahar said the city is looking to contract out.

The city has not been able to respond to any questions on this, due to the late Thursday development.

30 per cent of current Calgary Transit service cut, said Mayor Nenshi

Tens of thousands of Calgarians still rely on transit daily, said Mayor Nenshi. That was taken into account in the cuts.

“Doug and his team have been very “judicious” in really making sure that the cuts, which account for about a 30 per cent cut to Calgary Transit service, are ones that will have the least possible impact on riders,” he said.

The Transit app and trip planners will have further details soon. The route changes take effect on May 25.

When asked if these cuts were temporary, GM Morgan said that relies on ridership recovery.

“We’re just waiting to see when this crisis ends and when we get back to regular operations,” he said.

Mahar said that their bargaining agreement only allows for a 12-month recall. If a worker isn’t recalled for the position in that time, that employee is not guaranteed a future position.

Right now, he said the layoffs are termed “indefinite.”

“Some people say that in some companies (workers) are just a number – it’s universal to a lot of workplaces,” Mahar said.

“They can’t say that here because it became clear very quickly – we’re not a number but dollar sign.”