MONTREAL — After the blockade of the railway earlier this year, what are the implications of the health crisis that disrupt the activities of Via Rail, and result in the layoff of about 1,000 employees in its unionized workforce through the country, which represents approximately 31 % of its total workforce.
The affected employees will lose their livelihood on 24 July. No return to work date is not mentioned in the press release published this Wednesday by the society of the Crown, who explained that the callbacks will be made “as soon as demand permits”.
“Unfortunately, as we do not expect to observe, in the immediate future, a traffic similar to that prior to the pandemic (from COVID-19), we have had to take difficult decisions to deal with the situation”, stressed by the president and chief executive officer of Via Rail, Cynthia Garneau, in a release.
While there is always an “extended hiatus” of some of its services, the company has referred to the “impact growing financial” related to the current situation on its activities.
The distribution of the layoffs was not specified, but including employees assigned to the service onboard and in stations. In Quebec, up to 300 people could be affected. The Montréal maintenance centre would not be spared. For the moment, the axe would not have fallen within the headquarters located in the metropolis.
For its part, the union Uniforms, who represents the affected workers, has denounced the fact that the employees who have been temporarily laid off from obtaining an “additional benefit unemployment negotiated in their collective agreement if they turn to the Benefit of canadian emergency. The union asserts that the criteria of the PCU which prevent the payment of the additional income negotiated.
“This is problematic, launched the quebec director of Uniforms and equipment, Renaud Gagné, during a phone interview. Our members are penalized. How is it that one cannot apply what has been negotiated in our collective agreements?”
According to its most recent annual report, Via Rail had 3234 active employees at the end of the month of December. By 2019, more than five million passengers were boarded its trains, which represented a 5.5% increase in ridership over the previous year.
Before the pandemic COVID-19, the company had also seen its activities to be greatly disturbed by the blockade of the railway that had occurred across the country in support of a group of protesters opposed to a gas pipeline project in northern British Columbia.
“The current year has been filled with unprecedented challenges,” noted Ms. Garneau.
The service interruption is attributable to the blockade, during the winter, had forced Via Rail to also perform 1000 layoffs. The employees, however, had been recalled.
If some signs are encouraging, Via Rail has argued that “many roads are still suspended”. This is particularly the case, until the 1st of November, the long distance journey between Toronto and Vancouver, usually popular with the tourist clientele. It’s the same for travel between Montreal and Halifax, as well as the one who borrows the line from Winnipeg to Churchill.
In addition to its service center located in Montreal, the company operates three others, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. It also has six regional offices and two satellite offices.
Last year, Via Rail has posted a comprehensive income of negative $ 51.3 million, which was notably included a charge of $ 40 million related to the revaluation of components of certain retirement plans, according to data contained in its annual report.