Mike McLellan has been driving Greyhound buses all over B.C. for most of the last two decades. In fact, the 51-year-old Kelowna resident celebrated his 19th anniversary with the company on June 21.
Earlier this week, he and many others were rocked by the news that Greyhound was eliminating all Canadian routes west of Sudbury, Ont., this fall. There has been plenty of attention about how passengers are going to find alternate means of transportation, but McLellan and approximately 440 other unionized Greyhound employees, not to mention those who are not in the union, will need to find new jobs after October as well.
“It was a bit of a blindside,” McLellan said. “They just made a bunch of cuts to save a bunch of money, and we didn’t even get one quarter into that and they’re announcing that they’re shutting everything down. It was certainly surprising, and it was disappointing.”
McLellan is the sub-local chairperson of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 374, which represents the 24 drivers who will be looking for work come November.
“These guys really love what they’re doing now,” McLellan said. “They’re exceptionally good at it. Some of the winter stuff that we drive in would just blow your mind. These guys do it day after day and year after year. I’m sure there’s opportunities out there for the Greyhound guys. I mean, those guys are trained to the very highest standards, and they’re really good at what they do.
“… I’m confident that everybody will land on their feet somewhere, just not necessarily doing what they love doing, which is getting passengers up and down the highway safe and where they need to go.”
Many are left wondering what will fill the gaps in rural communities where Greyhound service was the only feasible public transit available. McLellan doesn’t see how another company could come in and pick up where Greyhound will leave off.
“I don’t know who’s ready to do it as it needs to be done,” McLellan said. “It’s a network that’s been built up for almost a hundred years. All the agents and all the stations … there’s a lot of brick and mortar that goes into doing what we do, and I’m not sure …”
If there’s a silver lining for the employees who will soon be out of work, it’s that Greyhound will continue to operate in the rest of North America and therefore will fulfil its pension obligations.
The wife of another Greyhound bus driver from Kelowna, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote in an e-mail to Castanet News that the public should be concerned for its safety once Greyhound shuts down its operations in B.C. and the rest of western Canada on Halloween.
“If another service tries to start up and drive the highways with possible rookie/unskilled drivers at the worst time of the year for weather is another very scary prospect for everyone’s safety,” she wrote. “That hasn’t been mentioned.”
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