Burnout due to staff shortages, low wages takes toll – drivers say ‘No more!’
GRANDE PRAIRIE – Tired of working too much overtime and fearful of burnout, City bus drivers have signed a pledge to stop working extra shifts as of April 15th.
Doug Mills, spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) the union representing the drivers, said all but one member of the union has signed the pledge.
“We’re all tired,” said Mills. “There are currently 15 of us doing the work of 21. We’re all working extra shifts, and if we don’t get some relief, I’m afraid there will be accidents.”
CUPE wants Cardinal Coach Lines, the company operating buses for the City, to increase wages in an attempt to recruit and retain more drivers.
Mills said CUPE and Cardinal had hoped to deal with shortages in the last round of bargaining, but said that the raises are not enough.
“The entry rate is still only $15.11, less than what a lot of fast food outlets are paying,” said Mills. “The last five new recruits all failed to complete their training period.”
Mills said four of the drivers have been served notice of $300/month rent increases – leading them to consider finding other work. The union is also warning that the average age of the drivers is over fifty, with little sign of younger drivers signing up.
“Healthcare and municipal workers in our union have been successful in negotiating $2-3/hour northern living allowances,” said Mills. “Something similar has to be done for the drivers or residents will see fewer and fewer buses on the road.”
Mills said the drivers know that refusing overtime is an extreme move, but asked the public to see it from their perspective.
“Working 50-60 hours per week is dangerous, and it’s no kind of life,” said Mills. “We need to be home with our families, not falling asleep behind the wheel.”
For more information about CUPE Alberta, visit www.alberta.cupe.ca