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Lack of staff causing ferry cancellations in Halifax: union president

By Jacob Moore Apr 30, 2024 | 6:11 PM

Ferry workers in Halifax often have to work double shifts — 16 hours on the ferry — with no break in between.

If one of the workers calls in sick and there isn’t anyone to replace them, the ferry service has to close.

Ferries in Halifax don’t have enough staff members, which is why dozens of trips on the ferry have been canceled in the last two weeks., according to according to Ray MacKenzie, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 508.

About 14 years ago, the ferries had 15 crew members and five relief members, who replace the crew when they are off, but now with 40 crew members, there’s still five relief, MacKenzie says.

“The work is getting done by overtime by our members, and they’re burning out,” he says.

Last year, the eight ferry captains had 3000 hours of overtime, he says.

Multiple captains were off for personal reasons on the weekend, MacKenzie says, and when there was a sick call, the ferry service didn’t have the staff to fill it.

A simple solution would be to hire more relief employees to cover when people are off or sick, he says.

In an email, spokesperson for the Halifax municipality Sarah Brannen says Halifax Transit is recruiting new operators to “reduce potential service interruptions as much as possible.”

But training takes time, she says, and there are currently no open ferry captain positions and only two open positions for the ferry division.

She says the city also offered shuttle buses in place of the ferry when it was closed.

“This is one of those situations where his is not an office job, [where] if you go sick you can pick it back up tomorrow,” says MacKenzie.

“We’re in the industry of moving the public around and we’ve got to have staff available for that.”