B.C. Ferries saw no service disruptions and carried a record number of vehicles on the Victoria Day weekend as it continues a hiring spree, offering a cash incentive of up to $10,000 for its employees to find trained staff who stick around.
A new hire in a desired category can also earn up to $10,000 if they stay for at least one year. And money is being offered to retirees as well.
President Mark Collins said Wednesday that B.C. Ferries carried 108,000 vehicles from Thursday to Monday, beating the previous record set for the same days in 2018, when ferries transported 105,000 vehicles.
The total for passengers was 296,000, Collins said, with 110 sailings added to the regular schedule. “That’s just a hair away from 300,000 people when you think about it. That’s a lot of people on the move.”
While ferries carry more vehicles in August — peak tourist season — the vehicle count is a new record for the May long weekend, Collins said.
The absence of the sailing cancellations that have plagued the company for several months because of crew shortages was particularly notable.
Since Jan. 4, B.C. Ferries has hired 850 new people, Collins said, many in entry-level positions.
Transport Canada requires a certain number of trained crew on board for a ferry to operate.
These days, the number of qualified licensed mariners in senior categories being hired is similar to the number of retirements, Collins said, although about 160 vacancies remain.
This week, B.C. Ferries announced an incentive program for its approximately 5,400 employees to help fill positions in critical categories, such as engineering.
“If an employee brings us a good new recruit and they come on board and they get through their probation and they stay with us, we will give you a referral payment.”
That payment can be up to $10,000 for the existing employee and up to $10,000 for the new worker after a year on the job.
B.C. Ferries is also working with former staff who have retired and those who are close to retiring to see if they would consider working, especially in peak season.
Collins also said the new saver fares have been working well to balance out ferry loads. These fares come with a built-in reservation and are priced at lower rates at certain times to attract passengers, reducing demand at popular times.
That meant there was enough capacity over the long weekend to handle most of the vehicles that arrived without a reservation.