The “return to normal” will wait until spring at the Capital Transport Network (RTC), which must cancel more than 300 departures per week due to the labor shortage this winter. The union deplores, however, that the situation is attributable to the lack of buses, which management denies.
“There is a labor shortage […] which has been hanging over us for quite a while,” said the president of the RTC, Maude Mercier Larouche, at a press briefing on Monday, arguing that the unemployment rate is lower in Quebec than in Montreal, in particular.
She says she is aware that the decision will have an impact on users, but promises that efforts are underway to “return to normal in the spring”. A recruitment campaign launched this fall has already doubled the number of applications received at the same time last year, according to the president.
The transport network first updated its timetables online on Friday, specifying that the service would change “pace” as of November 25. Several media then specified the height of the cuts: in total, 360 departures will be canceled this winter and around thirty drivers are missing.
Mme Mercier Larouche states that the schedules have been modified “according to the least busy hours and distributed across the entire territory so as not to impact the same clienteles. » “It would have been an easy choice to cut only in the outskirts because we know that the express trains are less busy than the routes in the city center,” she said.
This restructuring mainly affects the weekend, with around 180 departures canceled on Saturday and Sunday. Around a hundred journeys will be affected.
At the Union of Public Transport Employees of Metropolitan Quebec, which represents RTC bus drivers, president Hélène Fortin was scandalized by this announcement, offering another version of the facts. “It’s complete nonsense. […] We lack vehicles. It’s bad planning and bad management, pure and simple,” she argued on Radio-Canada, promising to file grievances and bring the matter before the Administrative Labor Tribunal. (TAT).
The general director of the RTC, Nicolas Girard, however, denies this information. “In no case has the availability of buses impacted the service offering for winter 2024,” he assured, recognizing however that “exceptional situations”, such as breakdowns or episodes of congestion and Storms may reduce the number of buses available on an ad hoc basis.
The spokesperson for the organization Access viable transports, Angèle Pineau-Lemieux, is worried. “When we remove 360 departures per week in winter, it is buses that passed every 30 minutes that now pass every hour,” she lamented.
These service reductions “are probably just the tip of the iceberg,” according to the general director of Trajectoire Québec, Sarah V. Doyon. “We fear that this situation will repeat itself in the coming years, in Quebec and elsewhere, if government funding is not up to par. »
All this comes a few months after a strike by RTC drivers which completely paralyzed bus service in the capital for several days.