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GO Transit: Service thread (including extensions)

Northern Light

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No, actually the sick calls are real. The complicating factors are a) it’s summer, so staff who would normally be available to backfill a sudden absence aren’t available b) a Covid absence is not a 24-hour flu…. once the person gets sick they stay off longer, so the impact of any one absence is greater and c) there is a staff shortage, so again no defense in depth.

- Paul

Doubtless you're entirely accurate; but there's no excuse for GO or Alstom.

Self-inflicted wounds are real, but not reasonable.

Covid has been a known commodity for ~ 2 years now; and summers happen every year.

There should be sufficient staff hired, trained, retained to operate service with spare board, in all seasons.

If one is responsibly doing all of the above, that minimizes any risks.

Add to that,if one is tracking that planning is delivering results (in this case in staffing) as it should; and sees any indication of a problem, you start doing what you need to by way of mitigation, early.

- Accelerate burn-in of new staff; up retention bonuses, ask nicely for people to defer some vacation time, and compensate them accordingly.
 

smallspy

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Doubtless you're entirely accurate; but there's no excuse for GO or Alstom.

Self-inflicted wounds are real, but not reasonable.

Covid has been a known commodity for ~ 2 years now; and summers happen every year.

There should be sufficient staff hired, trained, retained to operate service with spare board, in all seasons.

If one is responsibly doing all of the above, that minimizes any risks.

Add to that,if one is tracking that planning is delivering results (in this case in staffing) as it should; and sees any indication of a problem, you start doing what you need to by way of mitigation, early.

- Accelerate burn-in of new staff; up retention bonuses, ask nicely for people to defer some vacation time, and compensate them accordingly.
This is great in theory.

And yes, a very large part of the pain currently being felt regarding staffing shortages is entirely self-inflicted. (If you don't pay people enough to deal with your bullshit, you think that they are going to stay around? Just ask the nurses....)

And there is certainly the issue of not having enough people applying and going through training to cover all of the losses and sicknesses.

But I would argue that the majority of the problem is entirely structural, and caused by the contracting out of the service to a private "partner" - Alstom. It is in their best interest to be profitable, and the best way for them to do this is to run extremely fine margins when it comes to staffing. While they certainly have penalties for not making service, are those penalties large enough to dissuade them from getting to that point in the first place?

You want to minimize the risks of this kind of thing happening? Take the profit away from any third-parties, and operate the service entirely in-house.

Dan
 

crs1026

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Doubtless you're entirely accurate; but there's no excuse for GO or Alstom.

Self-inflicted wounds are real, but not reasonable.

Covid has been a known commodity for ~ 2 years now; and summers happen every year.

There should be sufficient staff hired, trained, retained to operate service with spare board, in all seasons.

If one is responsibly doing all of the above, that minimizes any risks.

Add to that,if one is tracking that planning is delivering results (in this case in staffing) as it should; and sees any indication of a problem, you start doing what you need to by way of mitigation, early.

- Accelerate burn-in of new staff; up retention bonuses, ask nicely for people to defer some vacation time, and compensate them accordingly.

No argument. I deliberately wrote my point c) to be non-judgemental.

The pandemic seems to have caught many employers by surprise, in ways that I have little sympathy for. It turns out, when your workplace wasn't all that well run, and you suddenly lay off huge numbers of people, they adapt and find new jobs.... and then when you call them back, and they don't rush to come back, you express surprise and disappointment. People on the shop floor don't always drink the Kool-Aid that the executive level has been bathing in. There are lots of good things about employment with GO, but it is not a perfect environment and for some laid-off workers who hired on elsewhere, maybe the grass turned out to be greener.

In ML's case, while there is some of that, their situation has some excusable factors. Like the airlines, they have tried to ramp up service faster than they can attract people back. The training requirements place limits on how quickly they can hire new staff. Ridership has returned in different places than it existed previously and some trial and error has been needed to put the trains where most needed. (Hint: weekend summer events downtown rather than weekday peak).

A lot of industries seem to have written this whole phenomenon off as a short term blip that has no long term significance. I will be interested to see whether the business observers come to find case studies of companies that weathered the pandemic with minimal labour disruption, and who adapted effectively. It's a little soon for those case studies to emerge.

- Paul
 

crs1026

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But I would argue that the majority of the problem is entirely structural, and caused by the contracting out of the service to a private "partner" - Alstom. It is in their best interest to be profitable, and the best way for them to do this is to run extremely fine margins when it comes to staffing. While they certainly have penalties for not making service, are those penalties large enough to dissuade them from getting to that point in the first place?

You want to minimize the risks of this kind of thing happening? Take the profit away from any third-parties, and operate the service entirely in-house.

Dan

I'm not sure that I would say eliminate all contracting out - no efficiency gain to be had in building a monolith - but there is a lot of dysfunction in how GO is run.

The war stories that one hears (and you and I do hear some of the same stories from the same people) suggest that there are too many contractors in play, between CN, CP, Alstom, the track contractors, and the construction arm. And even VIA.

It sounds like this job market is stealing people from each other (such that every hole filled creates a hole in another organization, so no net improvement in the workforce numbers). In some cases, it is alleged that non-performing managers and staff simply move on and then reappear at another agency, and move on again when they again become problems.

The new contract operator will arrive to find a system that is fairly well maintained and equipped. I wonder what they will think of the laboour situation..... it may well be the GO network's achilles heel. Maybe some changes will be made.

- Paul
 

nfitz

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Covid has been a known commodity for ~ 2 years now; and summers happen every year.
The 7th wave only just peaked in Ontario - deaths should peak soon.

The current variant is very contagious to those who are already vaccinated, especially if they haven't had a booster for months. It's easy enough to believe that it could sweep through a group of employees.

There are limits on how much one can prepare in these extreme conditions.
 

gweed123

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OK I found the thing I was mentioning

from the Initial Business case for the Kitchener Line:

"Travel between Kitchener / Waterloo and Guelph is the second largest market on the corridor. An estimated 32,000 trips are made each day between these cities."

"The third largest market is the long distance inter-regional trips between the outer ring municipalities (Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph) and Toronto, totaling approximately 18,000 daily trips."
To me, this potentially warrants a 'shuttle' route that just runs back and forth between Kitchener and Guelph all day, supplementing the Toronto-bound service on the line. Even more so once Breslau station comes online.

It wouldn't need to be a 12-car hulk, maybe a 6-car train. Based on schedules it looks to be about 17 mins to run between Kitchener GO and Guelph GO, and 20 mins for the reverse trip. So theoretically, you could run a 45-min service with 1 train.
 

generalcanada

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Northern Light

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Did you read the article? It says "2,200 GO Transit bus operators, station attendants, plant and fleet maintenance workers, transit safety officers, and office professionals". It doesn't mention train operators.

Train crews are employees of Alstom
 

generalcanada

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Did you read the article? It says "2,200 GO Transit bus operators, station attendants, plant and fleet maintenance workers, transit safety officers, and office professionals". It doesn't mention train operators.
i didnt mention train operators. nonetheless, that does prove my point
 

generalcanada

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Your point being.... train operators are calling in sick because some other union (that doesn't represent train operators) has received a strike mandate ?????

- Paul
no, trains cant run without dispatchers, maintenance workers. like conductors arent the only people who make sure trains run safely
 

smallspy

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I'm not sure that I would say eliminate all contracting out - no efficiency gain to be had in building a monolith - but there is a lot of dysfunction in how GO is run.

The war stories that one hears (and you and I do hear some of the same stories from the same people) suggest that there are too many contractors in play, between CN, CP, Alstom, the track contractors, and the construction arm. And even VIA.

It sounds like this job market is stealing people from each other (such that every hole filled creates a hole in another organization, so no net improvement in the workforce numbers). In some cases, it is alleged that non-performing managers and staff simply move on and then reappear at another agency, and move on again when they again become problems.

The new contract operator will arrive to find a system that is fairly well maintained and equipped. I wonder what they will think of the laboour situation..... it may well be the GO network's achilles heel. Maybe some changes will be made.

- Paul
Well, herein lies the rub, doesn't it?

The whole point of contracting out services is, if you listen to the right politicians, to "save money". Less well known is the ability for plausible deniability, and to give the ability to allow for a location to point the blame to when things go wrong. Like right now.

I've used "save money" because there have been a lot of cases over the years where contracting out the operation of various services has not, in fact, saved any money and has actually cost taxpayers in the long run. (Toronto garbage collection, I'm looking in your direction.)

Bombardier, and subsequently Alstom, and managed to keep their costs low - and thus profits high - by paying their staff less. This has resulted in difficulty retaining staff, as once trained they are able to use those skills elsewhere at a higher pay rate. This is not just a job market stealing from one to pay the other, this is far more of a "show me the money" situation. CN, CP and VIA are showing the crews the money.

Now, I'm no "bicycle riding commie pinko" as a brief hockey-coaching baboon* once said, but at the same time I fully realize that if you are going to run a public service that it needs to be reliable to the people using it. And to be reliable, you need to have people. Right now, the service that Alstom is operating is not, and has none. Meanwhile, GO's bus division - which certainly not smelling like roses, with its own potential strike coming - is certainly nowhere close to being in the same boat. Nor is the TTC, nor most of the other transit agencies in the GTA.

Dan

*I humbly apologize to any baboons offended by getting lumped in with said brief hockey-coaching moron.
 

Krypto98

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It sounds like this job market is stealing people from each other (such that every hole filled creates a hole in another organization, so no net improvement in the workforce numbers). In some cases, it is alleged that non-performing managers and staff simply move on and then reappear at another agency, and move on again when they again become problems.
At macmillan we've lost 4 guys that either went to GO or to VIA, 2 locomotive engineers and 2 conductors... yes the pay is probably less at GO but at least they get a schedule a week in advance and not the day of...
 

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