ATU 583 Looks Back on 2020

If there was ever a year many of us would prefer not to review, 2020 would be it.

We began where 2019 left off. With the support of City Council, Calgary Transit was bound and determined to contract out the Service Lane, eliminating over 110 good paying jobs and replacing them with precarious workers earning minimum wage.

We began 2020 wondering what COVID – 19 might do and by mid-March we got a hint. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic and on March 17, Calgary was in a State of Emergency.
The impact on us has been tremendous and much more than we could ever detail here, however some things were more surprising than others.

Initially, the fear of contracting out our Service Lane work during a pandemic caused management to take a sober second look at their timing and it was put on hold until the fall. Unfortunately, because of the reduced ridership and shuttering of AG and STF, Calgary Transit saw an opportunity to bring in the contractor on a slow start up with on-the-job training. Although this violated the protocols in the Request for Proposals, they seized the moment, eventually putting 90 long term employees out on the street during a world-wide pandemic and unemployment at 12.5%. History will measure this decision both morally and from an economic perspective.

Although we are front line workers and are seen as essential to some segments of society and to our economy, we have zero recognition as such in the eyes of the Calgary Emergency Response Agency. We asked for masks and sanitizer kits for our members and not only were we told “no”, we weren’t even allowed access to the items Calgary Transit had stocked pre Covid. Fortunately, our Executive Board acted quickly and we were able to acquire disinfectant bottles within days and masks within a month. For many months, like many other groups, it felt like we were dealing with something new every day. Rear door loading, signage, working from home, social distancing in the office and maintenance area and trying to keep as many members working as possible were challenging and unexpected circumstances we all had to deal with. Fortunately, although the pandemic remains a serious threat, many of the challenges have been mitigated and are at least partially contained. Of course, we must and will continue to address everything we can to make our work area as safe as possible going forward.

Although 2021 is lining up to be at least as challenging as this year, one thing is undisputable about 2020.

The City of Calgary owes you a thank you like no other business unit. Unlike most City services, we never stopped working directly with the public and in an environment that didn’t get better, it got worse.

Everyone recognizes the need for front line workers that provide essential services in the food supply chain, the health care industry and transportation support services to name but a few. But without public transit most of those workers would not be able to get to work. When they opened up schools it’s our members that coordinated the service, maintained the vehicles and transported all these students to and from their destinations.

On behalf of the Officers, Executive Board, Stewards and Committee members of Local 583, we want to “Thank You!”

Thank you to CTA members for getting some of our most vulnerable Calgarians to medical appointments like dialysis.
Thank you to our members for insuring all those things happened behind the scenes under rapid fire to insure that as many of us could keep working as possible.
Thank you to the maintenance members that continue to go above and beyond to keep a fleet running knowing that the units you service have been exposed to Covid 19. And to those that have kept the non-transit vehicles running for the work you do behind the scenes keeping Calgary flowing smoothly.
Thank you Operations In spite of all your legitimate fears you have continued to provide a service to a City that would have come to a literal stop without you.
Thank you, members on lay off, we know how difficult it has been and you have all been a shining example of loyalty as you wait to be recalled.
Thank you, Service Lane members, who, in spite of this hammer hanging over their heads, acted in good faith and kept the fleet sanitized and safe for our members and the customers of Calgary Transit.

We are wishing everyone a safe and happy Holiday Season. Take care and be good to one another.
In Solidarity

Mike Mahar
Neil McKinnon
Harry Lew
Bill Johnson

COPE 397 /jr

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