VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — TransLink will temporarily lay off close to 1,500 employees and suspend transit services further beginning this week to cope with revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will also reduce senior executive salaries and board member pay by 10 per cent and defer major road projects and service expansions, while spending reserves.
TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83 per cent while still providing transit services for essential workers.
This rate of financial loss is not sustainable, TransLink says in a release.
Also – to make ends meet, @TransLink will use capital reserves to the end of the year (like the province has told municipalities they can as well) while deferring capital projects this year.
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) April 20, 2020
The cost-saving measures announced Monday include further suspension of transit services on bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, beginning this week.
TransLink also issued temporary layoff notices to 1,492 employees, including those who work at TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and British Columbia Rapid Transit Company.
“This has been an incredibly tough decision and one we do not take lightly,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “We’ve done our best to try and reduce costs through other means, but TransLink is losing $75 million per month, and we’re left with no other options. It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families.”
TransLink will spend cash reserves to sustain current essential service operations through to the end of 2020, and says it has a commitment from the province to ensure near-regular service can be restored by September.
“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 added.
TransLink and the province are also working on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of the transit authority to ensure it can continue delivering services and key projects in the future.
TransLink had previously reduced transit services due to the pandemic, including seating capacity on buses to promote physical distancing, as well as rear-door only boarding. It also suspended fare collection on buses to protect bus operators and increased cleaning measures on buses, HandyDART, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
TransLink says capacity will continue to be focused on the routes and times with continued high demand.
“With ridership down over 80 per cent across the system, analysis suggests physical distancing will still be possible for most trips,” says the release. “TransLink has limited seating on buses and operators will not make any stops once capacity is reached. On SkyTrain, customers are asked to try a different car or wait for the next train if they feel there is not enough space to remain physically distant from other passengers.”
Customers are also asked to only travel on transit if necessary, so space is available for essential service workers.
For service reductions by mode, read here.
MoveUP, the union which represents administrative workers at Coast Mountain Bus Company and TransLink, is disappointed by the layoffs, which include its members.
“Our members — the front-line workers who get other front-line workers in place to serve the public — are being disproportionately impacted,” David Black, president of MoveUP, says in a release.
“Even more disheartening is that our union was only provided with two days’ notice. The legal standard for consulting on a workforce adjustment is 60 days. Our collective agreements require four weeks’ notice. We will hold management accountable if the proceed in violation of those standards.”
Black says the union is concered about the financial implications for members, as well as how service reductions affect essential workers.
“These layoffs are counterproductive to the otherwise strong efforts that our province has been making to combat the COVID-19 crisis.”
Blacks says the union will advocate for the provincial and federal governments to provide emergency funding to sustain public transit
“Public transit will return to its prominent role in connecting our communities in a safe, reliable, and affordable manner and we need to do all that we can to ensure it is set up to do so in a quick and efficient way.”