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The TTC is eyeing bringing employees out of retirement in case the vaccine mandate deadline causes a labour shortage
Oct. 12, 2021
Irelyne Lavery

The TTC is eyeing bringing back retirees to help fill any labour shortages as an Oct. 30 deadline for employees to disclose their vaccination status draws closer.

Ontario’s employers are having problems staffing up as vaccine mandates come into force. The province’s health sector is also bracing for even worse staff shortages as a deadline for long-term care employees to get vaccinated comes up next month.

“We are looking at, and planning for, a number of options to ensure we can continue to deliver service beyond October 30,” TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said of the transit service’s fast approaching vaccination deadline.

Even though recalling retired workers is a contingency the TTC is exploring, their hope is that it will not be necessary, Green said. “But we have to plan just in case.”

The recall would be voluntary, he added.

A decision has yet to be made regarding what will happen to those who don’t disclose their status before the Oct. 30 deadline, he said.

Earlier this month, the TTC told transit union leaders it was gearing up for a labour shortage. The date by which bus, streetcar and subway operators could sign up for shifts this month was also pushed back to November, according to a letter sent to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 leaders and seen by the Star.

In September, Local 113, the transit agency’s largest union representing nearly 12,000 employees, initially directed its members to not share their vaccination status with management.

They quickly backpedaled in their fight against the mandate after an urgent application was filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board where the TTC claimed the union violated labour laws.

Although the TTC’s deadline is now just around the corner, this isn’t the first time it has crept up on workers.

Initially, TTC staff were asked to disclose their vaccine status by Sept. 20 but the date was later extended by 10 days. As the end of September rolled around, a little more than 60 per cent of employees had provided their status.

This low response rate pushed the deadline again to Oct. 6.

Like the TTC, Metrolinx -- Ontario’s largest transportation investment that also operates GO Transit, UP Express and PRESTO -- has a vaccine mandate in place. Employees at the agency, which has around 4,600 Metrolinx employees including bus drivers and station and office staff, will be required to disclose their vaccination status by Nov. 1, according to Anne Marie Aikins, the agency’s head of media relations.

More than 90 per cent of employees have already signed an attestation to declare their status, she said. Of these staff, between three to four per cent said they were unvaccinated.

The Metrolinx mandate also includes workers the agency contracts with, such as train crews who work for Alstom -- a manufacturing operation company.

“Part of our strategy is to work with Alstom to develop a strategy that will cope with any potential staff shortages,” Aikins said.

She said Metrolinx will do everything it can to figure staff shortages should they arise come November -- but it’s too early to tell as of Monday.

Unlike the TTC, Metrolinx has already decided that employees who remain unvaccinated after the deadline will be put on leave without pay, Aikins added.

Jasmine Graham, a spokesperson for the city of Hamilton, also noted how their mandate differs from Toronto as they will allow for transit employees to either disclose their vaccine status or get tested.

As of Monday, 83 per cent of TTC employees have shared their status and just over 90 per cent of them are fully vaccinated with the rest only having one shot, Green told the Star.