Strait Crossing GM says union jumping the gun
BORDEN-CARLETON – The union representing Strait Crossing Bridge employees is jumping the gun over changes being considered for night toll booths at the Confederation, says Michel LaChasseur, general manager Strait Crossing Bridge Ltd.
“I think where the union is getting ahead of themselves is this needs to be defined, which it is not defined yet,” he said. “It has to go through a pilot project and then has to be approved by Transport Canada.”
Debbie Bovyer, president of the P.E.I. Union of Public Sector Employees, said Strait Crossing Bridge Limited (SCBL) is looking at using only self-serve toll booths at night at the Confederation Bridge. SCBL officials point to safety as the main reason for the potential change, however, the union has questions.
“Bridge officials say toll attendants working late at night are more likely to be robbed so having only self-serve tolls is a good idea,” she said. “While this may be true statistically of robberies, there have not been any attempted robberies at night since the Bridge opened. Security measures are also in place to ensure that there aren’t large sums of money in the toll booths.”
Bovyer said more prevalent safety issues revolve around the use of self-serve tolls themselves.
“Lane four at the bridge has been a self-serve toll since the bridge opened and many accidents have occurred in this lane,” she said. “If the toll malfunctions or someone uses it improperly drivers can’t pass through. They often try to back away which has resulted in collisions.”
LaChasseur said it is not the company’s intent to make any changes during the tourism season.
“The union maybe wants to be confrontational by using the media,” he said. “We have been in consultation with the union on this matter. It’s not something they learned through the newspaper. If they want to discuss it with us, we are always open and they have my number and we can have a meeting about it. They are getting way ahead of themselves here.”
Bovyer said the real reason SCBL is considering offering only self-serve at night is to save the company money and if the changes are implemented the public will receive less service and unionized workers could lose 23 hours of work per week.
“If a customer is having difficulties with self-serve only, their options for help will be limited,” she said. “Without someone working at the tolls, customers will have to rely on a lone bridge patroller for help who could be 20 minutes away at any given time depending on their location. Customers will have the option of pressing a button to speak to a controller, however, controllers cannot leave their station to offer physical assistance.”
Bovyer said the public will be inconvenienced in the future if only self-serve night tolls are available.
“There are safety issues, wait times for assistance, and customers who are just carrying cash will be unable to pass through the toll,” she said. “They will be forced to purchase a bridge card at the nearest service station. If these changes go ahead we will see a reduction in the quality of service provided to Islanders and tourists.”
LaChasseur said there is a process that has to be followed.
“This is not a slam dunk,” he said “We’re the first ones who want to make sure that the client is well-served.”
LaChasseur said before any pilot project can be undertaken there needs to be a written plan which then needs the approval of Transport Canada then the pilot project is developed.
The project would then be implemented and assessed to see if it met all the goals set out for it. If not the project could be revamped or scraped.
“The plan has not even been defined yet,” he said. “There is no definite plan right now.”