Transit union demands emergency government funding for TTC workers

Apr 23 2020, 12:16 pm

After the TTC announced it was temporarily laying off 1,200 workers due to revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, the transit union said it will “fight” government to ensure the TTC gets the emergency funding it needs prevent the layoffs.

The president of ATU Local 113, which represents 12,000 transit workers said he will “take the fight to Toronto City Hall, Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park to ensure the TTC gets the emergency funding it needs to maintain service levels to prevent these layoffs and protect essential workers during this crisis.”

On Thursday, the TTC announced it was laying off 1,200 workers after ridership fell by 85%, costing the transit system around $90 million in monthly revenue.

“This is the ‘thank you’ our members get for sacrificing themselves day in and day out for putting their families and themselves at risk. No doubt, this feels like a punch to the gut after all the hard work our members are doing to keep Toronto moving throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” Carlos Santos, union president, said.

According to Santos, the TTC provided him with 30-days notice that 1,000 union members and 200 non-unionized members will temporarily not be working.

“Make no mistake – layoffs mean reduced service and these cuts will have consequences for essential, low-income workers who depend on the TTC to get to work at hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, and pharmacies.”

Santos also said that service cuts will lead to overcrowding, which increases the risk of spreading the virus.

Mayor John Tory said he hopes the TTC will be able to work with its union to “find a way forward” to preserve as many jobs as possible but will also be continuing to advocate for federal and provincial financial support.

“Support for transit makes up part of our request through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for emergency federal funding, and that request is not to the exclusion of the Ontario government,” Tory said.

The mayor said, without help from the federal and provincial partners, the TTC cuts indicate that the measures are needed to protect the service.

Ontario NDP transit critic, Jessica Bell, agreed with ATU Local 113, saying the TTC is an essential service, providing vital transportation for frontline workers.

Bell said that the NDP asked the minister of transportation “weeks ago” to help municipalities cover the losses local transit agencies are facing.

“Fare box revenue is down, and moving public employees off of paycheques and onto the Canada Emergency Response Benefit doesn’t do anyone good,” Bell said.

“The NDP continues to urge the province to throw municipalities a lifeline. If we don’t act soon, transit agencies may struggle to maintain the essential service they provide and stay on top of the sanitization standards that are so important to preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

Earlier on Thursday, the TTC said other cost-saving measures that are being implemented include significant reductions in expenditures, like pausing salary increases for non-unionized employees, reducing overtime across the organization, reviewing current vacancies, and forgoing all seasonal hirings.

The TTC is also delaying all non-essential capital projects, in accordance with provincial guidelines.

Additionally, savings experiences are coming through on utility, fuel, and PRESTO commission costs. Once fully implemented, cost-saving measures will result in savings of up to $25 million each month.

Service will be maintained at roughly 70% to 80% of regular levels, which is in line with current demand, according to the transit system. Focus remains on servicing priority routes within the bus network in a way that allows for good physical distancing.