Article by Ben Spurr, The Toronto Star
The head of the TTC worker’s union is criticizing a decision by a city committee to add money to this year’s budget to pay for random drug testing of transit employees, while at the same time declining to fund new subway reliability and track safety programs.
As part of an omnibus motion on the city’s 2017 spending plan, councillors on the budget committee voted Tuesday to fund two items that the TTC requested but were originally left out of the agency’s preliminary budget.
The committee agreed to spend $1.3 million on the controversial drug testing plan, and $98,000 to employ additional transit enforcement officers.
However, there are still $4.4 million worth of “new and enhanced” services that TTC staff requested but remain unfunded. They include $1.2 million to improve signal, track, and power reliability on the subway system, a program that TTC staff say addresses “safety critical systems.”
Also unfunded is $1.3-million for a subway safety plan — which would employ watchpersons to manage train traffic when crews are at track level — and $1.9 million for retraining workers as the TTC switches to the Presto smart card system.
The budget could still change before council approves it next month, but Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 said, the committee’s decision was “very short sighted.”
“We’ve seen the results of not being proactive when it comes to maintaining our equipment,” he said, citing the “hot car” issue that plagued subways on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) last summer.