October 4, 2023

La Ronge Northerner

Complete Canadian News World

STM drivers at the end of their rope

STM drivers at the end of their rope

Bus drivers and metro operators of the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) are at their wits’ end, bemoaning the union that represents them. Data obtained by Duty Most of them show that they are absent or quit their jobs.

“Bus drivers are tired. Otherwise, they won’t be on sick leave more and more. You can feel it wherever you walk on the network,” says Frédéric Therrien, head of the association of bus drivers, metro operators and related service workers at STM.

Between 2018 and 2022, absenteeism rates for bus drivers and subway operators will increase by 43% and 52% respectively, data obtained through the Access to Information Act shows. It was noted that these employees were more likely to be absent from work than the average 10,500 STM workers. Duty.

Data provided by the STM shows that almost a third of the disabilities reported by the company’s employees, all conditions combined, are related to “mental health”, which does not surprise Frédéric Therrien.

“We will not hide it: the working conditions of the drivers, year after year, are getting harder,” says the union leader. The latter in particular, with bus drivers experiencing more “stress on the road,” construction sites, motorists and cyclists struggling to meet tight schedules on the different routes thousands of Montrealers use daily.

“Today, our days are shortened, so we have less time to breathe,” notes Frédéric Therrien, who wishes bus drivers had more time to complete their daily commutes.

More acts of violence

Because, currently, many drivers are insulted by customers because they arrive late at stops, compared to the schedules set by STM, two bus drivers said in an interview. Duty. “At the end of a day’s work, we’re mentally burnt out,” says one of them. The latter requested anonymity because he was not authorized by his employer to speak to the media. “Customers have become intolerant and aggressive,” says another driver, noting that the problem has grown since the pandemic began.

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The transit agency confirms that “acts of violence” in which STM employees are victims or witnesses are on the rise. These account for 35% of absences from work related to “accidents” between June 2022 and May 2023, up 4.6% on the same period last year.

“We are concerned, but we want reassurance [la population] : Our network is secure,” he said Duty Director General of the STM, Marie-Claude Leonard. And, to support its employees, the company has a program to access resources in “psychological health,” the manager notes.

Resignations will increase

Between 2018 and 2022, the STM has hired an average of 228 drivers per year. However, this number dropped significantly in 2021 and 2022, with only 42 and 93 drivers joining the transport company’s ranks in those years.

Meanwhile, the number of resignations has seen a steady rise among bus drivers and metro operators, rising from 39 in 2020 to 44 the following year and 80 last year. According to STM data, the situation has contributed to the widening of the gap between hiring and exiting for these two job categories in the past two years.

“If I had five years of seniority, I would have already left elsewhere to find another job,” a bus driver contacted. DutyAfter more than twenty years of service, he clings to his post as his retirement approaches.

Also, as of Thursday, the STM is still looking for 85 bus drivers to complete its workforce, though that number is dwindling due to active recruitment by the transit agency. “We hope to have the right drivers to balance the service, and if we ever have to make cuts on one trip, two trips, we’ll make sure that’s clear to customers,” Marie-Claude Leonard said. This shortage of drivers may affect the quality of service on some bus routes.

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Meanwhile, the STM relies on voluntary overtime by employees to cover the shortage of drivers on its network. By extending their schedules this way, 609 bus drivers, subway operators and station agents made more than $100,000 last year, compared to 345 employees in these three categories the year before.

However, “when I have extra time, it’s cheaper than hiring more drivers,” said M.me Leonard.

Not enough special guards

Duty There are currently 44 Special Constable posts vacant in STM. Thus, out of the organization’s target of 185, 141 personnel are in the field. “Taking into account Laval and Longueuil metro stations, it is not enough to cover the entire area of ​​STM,” laments Yasin Sabir, STM’s vice president of occupational health and safety for the Fraternity of Constables and Peace Officers.

The shortage of special constables is explained by the fact that they “started to hire a lot of us” to respond to their needs, especially for the police department of the city of Montreal and the Sûreté du Québec. , Mr. Sabir mentions. “We have to find other ways to keep people here,” insists the union representative, who recalls that special constables are responsible for ensuring safety and respect for fare rights in the metro network.

The absentee rate of special constables has risen since 2019, Mr. Sabir associates it with the presence of “aggressive people” who attack his union members. “There is more unpredictable behavior, some serious injuries, which means we are losing more and more explorers,” confirms Marie-Claude Leonard.

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