MONTREAL — VIA Rail Canada will temporarily lay off 1,000 unionized workers this month because of depressed ridership stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Company officials said on Wednesday that the layoffs would go into effect on July 24.
“The current year has been filled with unprecedented challenges. First with the blockades in February and now with the ongoing pandemic, we have made every effort to protect our employees to the best of our abilities against the impacts of the service reductions,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Garneau. “Unfortunately, as we don’t anticipate ridership to be back to pre-COVID-19 levels in the foreseeable future, we have had to make difficult decisions to deal with the situation as we gain a better understanding of the impacts of the pandemic on our operations.”
Employees will still be able to access benefits during the layoff. Company officials are hoping to bring them back to work as soon as possible.
VIA Rail has reduced service across its entire network because of the pandemic. In May, it announced that it would not be running its two premier long-distance trains, the Canadian and the Ocean, until November.