Ferry workers union says it could be rough waters ahead this summer

Ferry workers union says it could be rough waters ahead this summer

The noon ferry to the Lower Mainland loaded on-time and on-schedule Friday — but some other passengers weren’t so lucky.

At least four BC Ferries sailings were cancelled, and the president of the union representing BC Ferries workers says this is likely just the beginning.

“I’m a bit worried that if there are not significant changes in the near future, it could be a summer unlike summers we’ve seen,” said Eric McNeely, president of the BC Ferry Workers & Marine Workers’ Union.

Cancellations are now routine due to staffing shortages, with multiple sailings nixed this week alone.

BC Ferries recently hired 850 new ferry workers, but the union says retaining them is an issue.

Approximately 200 employees remain off the job because of the federal vaccine mandate that remains in place.

At the same time, McNeely said demand for the ferries is building.

“We’re seeing vehicle traffic right now that is at an all-time high. Some of it is getting close to pre-pandemic highs,” he said.

Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey said the cancellations are concerning as the industry recovers from the pandemic.

But Nursey said there’s recognition that staffing shortages in the marine industry is a global issue.

“We are fully aware that this causes some challenges,” he said. “But I think that we are seeing this around the world. And I really want our customers and BC Ferries to work together, and get through this period as we gear back up again.”

Earlier this spring the Victoria-Seattle Clipper announced that due to staffing shortages, it had to reduce the number of sailings to Victoria.

Many passengers are taking the cancellations in stride.

“I would say just book ahead of time. Just do that. Don’t just show up,” one traveller told CHEK News Friday.

“We live on an island. There’s really nothing you can do,” said another.

BC Ferries is actively recruiting for employees, and insists that smoother waters are ahead.

READ MORE: BC Ferries reports backed-up sailings on Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!