Lise Vaugeois MPP, Thunder Bay–Superior North

Government of Ontario

West condemns Conservatives’ unsafe, understaffed ferry services

Published on March 27, 2023

QUEEN'S PARK - NDP Labour Critic Jamie West (Sudbury) used Question Period today to condemn the Conservative government for exacerbating a manufactured staffing crisis among ferry workers in Kingston by paying an out-of-province, temporary staffing agency two to three times more than the unionized MTO ferry workers - instead of raising their wages to competitive levels.

Due to these changes, passengers have had to endure cancellations, delays, and health and safety hazards on the Wolfe Island ferry. Despite the staffing agency employees lacking the experience and expertise of union workers, the government has persisted in using them - prompting the Ontario Public Service Employees vice-president to assert that inexperienced temporary workers were behind an incident at Wolfe Island Ferry where a platform fell out from under a man leaving him inches away from being submerged in freezing water.

"The current state of the ferry services in Ontario clearly indicates that the Ford Conservatives’ promises to prioritize workers are nothing but empty rhetoric," said West. "The government's eagerness to pay out-of-province replacement workers 2-3 times higher, and their failure to raise OPSEU Ferry Workers' wages to competitive levels is not only causing disruptions and delays that are detrimental to the economy and the public, but is also compromising the safety and well-being of workers.

The recent incident on the Wolfe Island Ferry is just another example of how untrained temporary workers can pose a severe threat to the safety of workers and passengers alike. It is unacceptable that the government continues to pay scab labourers instead of investing in permanent MTO ferry workers with the necessary skills, expertise and experience to maintain safe and efficient ferry services."

The NDP urges the government to stop the ongoing service disruptions in Kingston and respect workers by dropping their appeal of the recent court ruling that overturned the Conservatives’ unconstitutional wage-restraint legislation Bill 124. By investing in well-trained, permanent MTO workers, the government can ensure that the ferries operate smoothly, efficiently, and, most importantly, safely.