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As TransLink, Metro Vancouver's transportation provider, continues to work through debilitating financial woes, its Coast Mountain Bus Company has announced the elimination of 60 maintenance positions – a move the workers' union head insists will lead to bus delays and shortages.

Of the 60 positions to be cut, 20 will come from recent vacancies that will not be filled, according to a memo sent by the CAW Local 2200 executive board to members. CMBC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TransLink, will then turn to voluntary early retirement packages in an effort to reduce the number of layoffs. The reduction amounts to about 5.5 per cent of the unionized work force.

"We are all shocked and appalled at how deep these cuts have penetrated the CMBC work force and we cannot express enough our abhorrence at what appears to be complete and utter corporate stupidity," the memo stated.

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CAW Local 2200 president Joe Elworthy believes the cuts will result in a "deteriorated transit system" as remaining workers won't be able to keep up with the current level of bus service and preventive maintenance.

The number of spare buses available will also be reduced. CMBC spokesman Derek Zabel says the move means fewer mechanics will be needed, but Mr. Elworthy argues it means remaining workers will have to work overtime to maintain a deficient fleet.

"The spare ratio is there to maintain a consistent and available fleet so we don't have pass-ups, so we don't have passengers waiting there when things go wrong," Mr. Elworthy said.

"Cutting it in the name of cutting maintenance workers is going to impact all workers. It's going to impact [bus] drivers and it's going to impact the availability of buses."

The announcement of the cuts comes seven months after the release of the TransLink Efficiency Review, prepared by Shirocca Consulting for TransLink commissioner Martin Crilly. It stated that indirect costs for conventional buses and community shuttles totalled $59.7-million in 2010 and represented 50.3 per cent of total maintenance costs. Of the $59.7-million, $6.2-million was attributed to CMBC corporate costs and $53.5-million to unallocated maintenance costs.

"As compared to BC Transit Victoria, which admittedly has less complex and diversified maintenance requirements owing to their more uniform fleet, CMBC's indirect costs could be as much as $11-million too high in 2010 and $12.5-million too high in 2011 if the same proportion is applied," read a memo from Shirocca Consulting to Mr. Crilly.

Last month, TransLink announced it is expecting to miss its revenue forecast by nearly half a billion dollars from 2013 to 2015 due to weak fuel-tax revenue and the province's refusal to allow other funding mechanisms, among other reasons. Several planned improvements, such as increasing service hours to reduce overcrowding on key routes, were scrapped as a result.

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Mr. Zabel said the transportation agency has no choice but to review every aspect of the company in the face of financial challenges.

Members have until Oct. 26 to apply for the voluntary retirement program.

CAW Local 2200, whose 1,100 members have been without a contract since March 31, is also in the process of negotiating a collective agreement with its employer.

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