Nearly 1,500 bus drivers and other transit workers across Metro Vancouver are being laid off as TransLink faces plunging ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement from TransLink says the cost-saving measures are designed to preserve the region’s transit system with ridership down 83 per cent and a monthly loss of $75 million.
The statement says the cuts come with a commitment from the province that near-regular service can be restored by September.
In addition to 1,492 temporary layoffs, 18 bus routes will be suspended starting Friday, followed by another 47 in early May and service will be further reduced on SkyTrain, SeaBus and the West Coast Express commuter rail.
TransLink’s funding of major road maintenance and rehabilitation across the region has also been deferred, along with all planned 2020 service expansions.
The statement says it believes physical distancing will still be possible on most routes, but it asks customers to use transit only if necessary, to ensure space is available for essential workers.
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says the layoffs and service cuts were tough decisions to make but there was no other option when faced with mounting financial losses.
“It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families,” he says in the statement that also announced senior management would see pay cuts of 10 per cent.
“I fully expect those affected will be recalled once TransLink returns to regular operations, which we are now planning for back-to-school in September, if consistent with provincial guidelines,” Desmond says.
Layoffs come less than 12 hours after unionized bus drivers released a letter opposing staff cuts of any kind.
Unifor, which represents bus drivers, also called on all levels of government to maintain service levels during the pandemic.
Talks were underway between TransLink and the provincial government to address TransLink’s longer-term fiscal sustainability and ensure delivery of transit services and key projects in 2021 and beyond, the company statement says.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2020
The Canadian Press