More than 100 layoffs looming as City of Edmonton looks to privatize bus cleaning, union calling on council to reconsider


Steve Bradshaw, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 469, projects at least 104 employees will be laid off by the city if privatization goes through

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The City of Edmonton is moving forward on privatizing the cleaning and maintenance of transit buses, which could lead to more than 100 job cuts.

A request for proposals will be issued by the city later this month to contract out cleaning and refuelling duties of the city’s bus fleet in an effort to save about $1.2 million annually. During the fall budget adjustment in December, council asked the city to “complete a review of cleaning processes in transit to identify efficiencies” but didn’t specifically say that the work was going to be contracted out.

This budget reduction was part of the city’s strategy to achieve a zero per cent property tax increase and reduce expenditures.

Steve Bradshaw, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 469, is sounding the alarm on the potential layoffs that would impact city employees who have been on the front lines of the pandemic ensuring that the city’s transit system was clean. The union has started a button campaign to garner support and also have photos of 1,500 members standing in solidarity that will be unveiled on a banner later this week.


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“These people have been there on the front lines making sure that we’ve got a clean and disinfected fleet on the street, protecting their co-workers, protecting the riding public for the past year and a half in a pandemic environment and what’s their reward for that going to be? A pink slip,” Bradshaw said in an interview with Postmedia. “That’s brutal. That is absolutely brutal.”

Bradshaw projects that at least 104 employees will be laid off by the city if privatization goes through, including 61 permanent full-time bus cleaners and 28 full-time temporary bus cleaners brought on board during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet enhanced cleaning practices. There are also 15 full-time employees responsible for refuelling and cleaning the outside of buses that could also be impacted, that weren’t initially included in the budget proposal.

In a response from the city, spokesman Justin Townell said a contract has yet to be finalized and the request for proposal process will give a better understanding on the number of city employees who will be impacted.

“We are going to test the market for bus cleaning and refuelling duties. Once findings from the RFP have been analyzed and evaluated, this will help us determine the next steps,” Townell said in a statement to Postmedia.

But Bradshaw said he hopes council reverses its budget decision and reinstates the $1.2 million annually to keep the bus cleaning in-house. With the cleaning procedures enhanced because of the pandemic, he argued now is not the time to change course. Calgary’s transit system outsourced cleaning last fall, affecting about 100 city employees.


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“To the city’s credit, once we raised the standard on the cleanliness of our buses at the beginning of the pandemic, they committed to keeping that standard. We achieved a new standard and it’s a good standard,” he said. “Now I think they’re backsliding on that. By hiring a contractor, that’s setting up circumstances and conditions where that standard is going to slip and fade.”

The city previously announced 60 permanent layoffs in January as a result of another budget decision in the fall to reduce the workforce by 300 full-time positions. About three-quarters of the employees laid off were in union positions while the remainder were in management positions.

Other opportunities to contract out services are being looked at by the city, including the operation of recreation facilities and the three golf courses. Business cases on these options to “reimagine services” are set to be released publicly and discussed by council at the end of June.

There are about 14,000 full-time employees at the City of Edmonton.

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