Bus passengers have been kicked to the curb mid-trip at least twice in the past week, and likely more often than that, because B.C. Transit would not approve overtime, says the union representing Greater Victoria public transit drivers.
Drivers at the end of their shifts have been ordered to stop their buses, tell the passengers to get off, then return to the B.C. Transit garage because no relief drivers were available to take over, according to Canadian Auto Workers Local 333.
B.C. Transit said this has happened on two occasions as a result of errors in communication and judgment.
Riders had to wait for the next bus on the route or find other ways to finish their journeys.
Union Local 333 president Ben Williams said it has happened regularly since job action ended two weeks ago. He said he has received reports of at least eight incidents where drivers were told to leave passengers mid-route.
One driver had to tell two people in wheelchairs to get off, he said.
“There’s a mutiny about to go on in that place,” he said. “Operators are livid. They feel horrible they have to tell people to get off the bus.”
Transit said overtime policies have not changed since drivers ended their job action, but Williams vehemently disagrees.
He said drivers are “chomping at the bit” to get overtime hours, but Transit management will not give approval.
Bus drivers and mechanics refused to work overtime for several months as part of their job action during stalled contract negotiations. That move led to a backlog of maintenance work.
Even though a new contract was reached, nearly 50 buses are parked as maintenance crews try to catch up.
B.C. Transit has been trying to manage the number of kilometres travelled by buses while trying to catch up on maintenance, said B.C. Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton.
Incidents where passengers were forced off mid-trip — at least the two B.C. Transit acknowledges — were errors, she said.
“It’s a practice that will not continue. We certainly apologize to our customers,” she said.
“When we were made aware of the practice, we communicated more clearly to our management and operations staff that we want all routes to run to completion.”
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