Some OC Transpo drivers were in plain clothes Thursday for a protest against what their union called a toxic work environment, but it's slated to end after just one day.
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279 president Clint Crabtree told CBC he met with management and got commitments to work on issues like scheduling and morale. As a result, he's told operators to be back in uniform on Friday.
"We've done what we had to do today to bring attention to what's going on," he said.
Crabtree said his members are "fed up with the style of management" at OC Transpo. He pointed to layoffs and resignations, saying that drivers are overworked and understaffed.
"Everything that is transpiring at OC Transpo seems to be going in a downward spiral," he said.
He said discipline is increasingly harsh and schedules are unrealistically tight. He said operators don't have any recovery time and can't even get out of their seat. They're already running late before heading off on their next route, according to Crabtree. That has a snowball effect.
"The buses are running late all the time," he said. "When the buses run late the operators are facing it from the public because they're frustrated with the unreliable service that is out there today.
"So that makes for a toxic work environment, an unsafe work environment for all the members at OC Transpo," Crabtree added. "They are miserable."
He said the union wanted to find a way to raise awareness of those issues without impacting service. That's why they chose the no-uniform action.
Transit GM and union leader meet
Renée Amilcar, the city's general manager of transit services, said she met with Crabtree on Thursday to discuss his concerns and potential solutions. She said OC Transpo values its relationship with the union, and the meetings will continue to work toward resolving issues affecting employees.
"OC Transpo is facing a financial challenge and rebuilding our ridership is key to the future of the system," she said, in an email response to questions CBC posed.
"To maintain our current riders and attract new ones, we must provide a consistently high level of service to our customers," Amilcar added.
"The conduct of our staff, in and out of uniform, affects whether our customers feel welcome and safe on our system."
Crabtree said he heard from OC Transpo management that they want to see morale boosted, schedules fixed and issues in the maintenance division resolved.
River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington, a member of the city's transit commission, said he plans to talk with Amilcar about the issues raised by the protest.
"I think that everybody has a right to work in a safe and healthy work environment," he said. "And if the union representing OC Transpo employees is raising concerns, I want that addressed with management."