Passenger train operator Via Rail will temporarily suspend nearly 1,000 employees as rail blockades in protest of a B.C. pipeline continue to prevent service on large chunks of its network.
Via Rail, which operates on Canadian National Railway’s tracks, said Wednesday it began notifying employees of the temporary layoffs in light of the prolonged cancellations. Since the blockades began on Feb. 6, Via Rail has cancelled more than 470 trains, affecting nearly 100,000 passengers.
This general interruption is an unprecedented situation in our history
Via Rail’s chief executive Cynthia Garneau
“This general interruption is an unprecedented situation in our history. In 42 years of existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger rail service, has to interrupt most of its services across the country,” Via Rail’s chief executive Cynthia Garneau said in a statement.
Via Rail was able to partly resume service in Southwestern Ontario and Quebec on Tuesday, but the critical connection between Ottawa and Toronto remains disconnected due to a blockade east of Belleville, Ont. near Tyendinaga Mohawk territory.
“We have done everything to mitigate the impact on our employees and our passengers,” Garneau said. “At this point, we believe we have made the fairest and most reasonable decision with the proposed temporary suspension plan.”
Via said the temporary layoff notices respect the terms of its collective agreements with unionized employees. It commended the ongoing dialogue efforts between various parties and said it hopes for a decisive resolution.