BC Ferries has reduced its service on its Gabriola Island to Nanaimo route this week due to a worker shortage after the company pulled unvaccinated staff from their jobs.
Some early morning and evening routes have been affected and many Gabriola Island residents are livid.
“Very concerned about these changes in schedule. It’s becoming a real problem for Gabriolans that have to get to Nanaimo early in the mornings or can only be coming back from Nanaimo or Vancouver Island, in general, later in the evenings,” said Steven Earle, Chair of the Gabriola Island Ferry Advisory Council.
The ferry’s first two and last four round-trips, or 12 sailings, on the regular schedule have been replaced by sailings on a water taxi, with room for just 10 people.
“And that’s just not adequate,” said Earle.
In a statement, BC Ferries says it’s related to unvaccinated employees.
Due to the company’s vaccination mandate, there are now staff shortages, but it says only the Gabriola Island Route is facing a modified schedule.
The Union representing Ferry Workers says around 600 employees have either not stated their vaccination status or have it under review.
“A lot of people are having trouble reconciling the fact that the general public is able to travel, 60,000 people a day, that may or may not be vaccinated while the workers do have to be,” said Eric McNeely, President of the BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union.
McNeely says he would’ve liked to see more time for vaccination decisions to be made.
He also believes the unvaccinated workers will impact more schedules going forward.
“Because so many people are coming in on overtime that ability to keep the sailings running may be affected in the longer term so maybe in a week or two when people are burned out from doing overtime then there may be additional disruption,” said McNeely.
And those sailing the Gabriola Island route today are upset.
“I’m upset with people who are selfish and not willing to get vaccinated,” said Fiona Downer, who is visiting her father on the Island.
“The worry is that when we have people coming over on ambulances at night time a water taxi isn’t very suitable for that,” said Gloria Filax, a Gabriola Island resident.
“BC Ferries could have put off the reduction by a couple of days to allow people to recognize that that was going to be the condition they were in,” said Steve Elliot a Gabriola Island resident who says numerous people in vehicles arrived for early sailings this morning without realizing BC Ferries had changed the schedule.
There’s no word when the schedule on the route will return to normal.