We are extremely concerned that this ill-considered cost-cutting will end up costing lives.' - Catherine Hamilton
Toronto (17 Feb. 2006) - The Ontario ministry of transportation has cut the number of winter patrol staff on area highways during peak hours when school buses are on the road.
"We have too few patrol staff covering too many miles on Parry Sound, Muskoka, and Haliburton highways," says Catherine Hamilton, president of Local 319 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
"We are extremely concerned that this ill-considered cost-cutting will end up costing lives."
For the last three years, the ministry has paid two patrol staff to supervise and direct the private contractors who maintain area roads. This year, only one patrolman is on the job, from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
"Winter patrols are essential to safe highway maintenance because private operators do not do work unless patrol staff direct them to do it," says Hamilton. "With fewer patrols, salting, sanding, and plowing may not get done when it needs to get done. It's just plain dangerous."
Other parts of the province still have 24-hour road patrol coverage, according to Bob Houston, a member of the union's enforcement and renewal committee. Houston, who works in the Owen Sound area, says the southwestern region of MTO considered reducing winter patrols but decided such a move would be too dangerous.
"Managers in the southwestern region decided that, for the amount of money they would have saved, the risk to public safety was just too great," he adds.
Winter patrols in the ministry's Huntsville District cover Highway 69 from Port Severn to just south of Pointe-au-Baril, Hwy. 11 from Severn River to Sundridge, as well as Hwys. 118, 124, 141, and numerous other smaller highways. NUPGE