Not enough GO operators for upcoming service increases, claims former employee

There are new concerns there may not be enough GO train operators to meet service increases announced by the Ford government earlier this week. Tina Yazdani reports.

By Tina Yazdani

There’s been widespread public concern since CityNews first reported that hundreds of GO Train workers have been denied vacation for the remainder of the year.

Gregory Vaughan, a former employee and Teamsters Canada Rail Conference General Chairman for GO Transit workers, is speaking out with claims there may not be enough GO operators for upcoming service increases announced by the Ford government.  

“The idea that an employer in this day and age would be willing to refuse people their ability to take their vacation, it’s completely unreasonable,” said Vaughan.

At least 500 GO Train conductors, engineers and customer service ambassadors have been affected, sparking safety concerns and prompting some employees to quit.

“Our people are tired a lot of the time working in the rail industry, it has its demands on the human body and the families of workers,” Vaughan added.

CityNews obtained an internal memo sent to GO Train workers from their employer Alstom, a third party contracted by Metrolinx to supply personnel for the operation and maintenance of GO Trains.

Metrolinx is transitioning to new operations at the end of 2024 and since Alstom’s vacation year starts in May, they write, “The fact that there are only eight months available to us to grant vacation this year, means that fewer people are getting the time off they requested. We sympathize but there is simply no way to squeeze 12 months of vacation requests into the eight-month period.”

Employment lawyer Howard Levitt tells CityNews denying employees vacation is simply illegal.

“People have a right, not just to vacation pay which is what they’ve promised here, but [to] actually take a vacation,” said Levitt. “The employer can’t say, ‘I’m sorry you’re out of luck for this year.'”

In the memo, Alstom also writes, “Things have been further complicated this year because of service increases.”

This week, the Ford government announced a 15 per cent increase in GO train service with more than 300 new trips a week on the Milton, Lakeshore West, Lakeshore East, Kitchener and Stouffville lines.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria tells CityNews he hopes the union and management can work out the dispute. 

“We want our unions and management to work together on this, safety is the top most priority for this government,” said Sarkaria.

But CityNews is learning they are short on staff.

A former employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he left the company because “Alstom has treated GO operators with such disregard and disrespect for so long, we are all looking for the door.”

In a statement, he claims the company is now so short on operators they do not even have enough to run trains for the increase in service coming up and alleges the company is scrambling to fill seats with “sub-par trained operators to not cancel trains.” 

“The reality is we don’t have enough workers as it is right now,” shared Vaughan.

Alstom said in a statement to CityNews that the information they have received “does not reflect our experience.”

They add their retention rate for their Toronto operation activities this year is in line with previous years.

“As for the increase in service requested by our client, this was taken into account in the collective agreement and we foresee no issue with meeting the service needs set out for the remainder of the year,” continued their statement.

Metrolinx also said that they calculate their requirements before agreeing to any changes in service.

“We calculate our crewing requirements before agreeing to the service plan. In addition, we add a 20 per cent spare board to cover absences and we pay for additional crew members to keep a large contingency available,” Metrolinx said in a statement to CityNews.

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