More investment in local labour key to safer, more efficient service, stakeholder forum told
VANCOUVER—Translink’s decision to welcome input from various stakeholders in a public dialogue is an important first step in developing a regional transportation strategy—but that consultation will prove meaningless if it does not include significant input from the employees who provide the services, say the two CUPE locals that represent transit workers in the Lower Mainland.
Today’s Translink stakeholder forum, “Building the Strategic Framework,” was held at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver. Following an overview of regional transit development since 1976, presenters offered a summary of key strategies Translink is pursuing for future development of the system. The three major discussion tracks were managing the transportation system for more efficiency and customer focus, strategic investment to maintain and expand the transportation system, and developing “partnerships” to make it happen.
In his opening remarks, CEO Ian Jarvis noted that a million more people are expected to be living in the region by 2045, with a corresponding increase in transit use. Despite this, he said, continuing uncertainty about the economic climate in B.C. suggests that it’s “not realistic” to expect government support or investment to continue at current or previous levels. “We can’t save our way to growth,” he said, noting that a decline in fuel tax revenues has placed further pressure on the system.
CUPE 4500 president Rob Woods, attending the forum with CUPE 7000 president Bill Magri and B.C. regional staff, urged the Translink board to do a better job of consulting with labour.
“There hasn’t been a lot of talk about investing in labour and keeping employees motivated to stay,” he told the forum. “There are employees who have worked through apprenticeships only to end up leaving and going elsewhere at tremendous cost to the companies and the system. We need to address that.”
Woods added that the goals of improving safety and security while increasing efficiency and reliability in the system are not supported by Translink’s recent history of service cuts and job losses.
“When there is a shift toward accepting the kind of operational risks associated with downsizing and elimination of jobs that support the transit systems and make them safe and efficient, that seems to go against earlier comments in the opening, that we can’t save our way to growth and can’t stay stagnant, either,” he said.