By Stacey Thompson
The union representing workers at VIA Rail Canada is calling for an end to service cuts.
This week VIA employees will participate in a nationwide leaflet campaign opposing – and urging Canadians to oppose – the federal government’s cuts to the rail service.
“I believe the deal was with the Harper government’s agenda to cut back on funding for VIA Rail, and VIA Rail had to react to that,” Bob Fitzgerald, CAW national representative, told Humber News.
This year the Harper government reduced money to the rail service by $6.5 million according to the CBC
. Further, $15.1 million is to be cut next year and $19.6 million in 2014.
The federal government’s modernization plan was announced June 27.
Fitzgerald said the government’s plan will see many civil servants and Crown Corporation employees faced with job losses and VIA will cut transcontinental rail services in half.
The Ocean ¬¬– a transcontinental train from Montreal to Halifax – will be cut from six round trips a week to three.
Trains from Toronto to Vancouver will also be cut from three round trips to two.
Various other areas of VIA will also experience less services by the end of the month, said Fitzgerald.
He added there will be a loss of jobs and some employees will face pay cuts.
“Job losses at VIA are stretching across Canada,” said Danny Andru, a CAW regional representative.
In the GTA alone, 30 to 40 jobs will be lost, he said.
Many of the stations across Canada will be turned into unmanned stations, meaning passengers can no longer purchase tickets directly at the station, said Andru.
This also means passengers with disabilities or special needs will no longer have someone to assist them on and off the train – that task will have to be performed by the onboard staff, he added.
“VIA is doing everything possible to accompany those affected employees through the process, whether it’s retirement, job abolishment, layoff or displacement,” said Mylene Belanger, VIA media spokesperson, in an e-mail statement.
“ The end goal is to build a business that is viable and sustainable in the long term. That’s in the best interest of everyone employed at VIA.”