St. Albert Coun. Wes Brodhead is answering the fears of the local transit union after the group launched a petition vocalizing their concerns over the future of transit in the region.
Steve Bradshaw, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569, said the union is fearful of changes that regionalizing transit could bring, like job losses and collective agreements not being honoured. Bradshaw said the group wants to be kept informed on what changes are happening so their voices are heard.
"It's important to us and the people that we represent as a union. People's jobs could be on the line here, we don't know what's going on. They're not talking to us," Bradshaw said.
"We think that this is really just an effort to contract out the transit systems."
Brodhead is the co-chair of the Regional Transit Services Commission (RTSC). Currently awaiting approval from the province, the commission would work to create an integrated transit system in the Edmonton region. The system has been billed as a way to save money and improve transportation services within the region.
Brodhead said cutting jobs to make more profit is not the aim of the commission, but rather to eliminate duplicate services between municipalities.
"The intent here is not to reap benefits by slamming our labour. The intent here was to provide services more efficiently. We will manage those and we will treat everybody appropriately as we go forward in terms of our labour force. Our intent is not to disadvantage anybody as a result of this," Brodhead said.
Current collective bargaining agreements will be honoured, Brodhead said, adding it would be illegal to break them under the Alberta labour codes.
Right now operators are anxious, Bradshaw said, especially in the wake of temporary layoffs due to COVID-19. They are fearful that the commission would try to save money at the expense of service delivery and jobs.
The commission has not been given the rubber stamp yet from the province, so they are still waiting to be technically formed as an organization. This makes it difficult for the commission to make any official commitments to bus operators right now, Brodhead said.
The commission is also in the process of hiring a CEO and Brodhead said they are taking their time to find the right person – someone who not only has experience, but is able to support efforts to integrate transit systems.
Once the the rubber stamping is done and the CEO is in place, Brodhead said the commission can move forward with engaging with bus operators, which he said they are very keen on doing.
The RTSC is interested in having operators participate and kept informed about what the commission is doing, he said. This could be done through a stakeholder committee or creating a seat at the table where they can speak to the commission and share their thoughts.
"I don't know where the legalities of this will all take us, but I think there will be a way for them to provide input to the commission at the end of the day, for sure," Brodhead said.