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Short-staffed B.C. Ferries calls back unvaccinated staff after COVID vaccine mandate ends

Multiple sailing cancellations on Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route for Queen of New Westminster until June 30 because of crew shortage
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Several sailing cancellations have been announced on the Tsawwassen-to-Swartz Bay route for the Queen of New Westminster until June 30 because of staff shortages. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Ferries, which is struggling with staff shortages and cancelled sailings, is calling back employees who have been on leave without pay for failing to be vaccinated, after eliminating its vaccine mandate on Monday.

The federal government announced last week that vaccination requirements for domestic and outbound travel, federal government employees and federally regulated transportation sectors would end as of June 20.

B.C. Ferries is hoping to draw from about 150 employees who have been on leave without pay because of the vaccine mandate, in order to offset staff shortages that have resulted in several sailing cancellations, including a string of sailings on the Tsawwassen-to-Swartz Bay route.

“We are in the process of reaching out to them to check on their intention to return to B.C. Ferries,” the corporation said in a statement. B.C. Ferries said there aren’t precise numbers for the workers affected because it’s still in the process of contacting each individual.

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union president Eric McNeely said bringing back workers should provide some relief, but there is still considerable need. “I just don’t know if it will be enough.”

Multiple sailing cancellations have been announced on the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route for the Queen of New Westminster from today through to June 30 because of staff shortages.

McNeely said the number of sailings for the ferry has basically been cut in half for the next week.

The string of cancelled ferries begins today with the 4 p.m. departure from Tsawwassen and the 6 p.m. from Swartz Bay both being eliminated.

Thursday to Saturday cancellations will include the 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Tsawwassen, and the 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Swartz Bay.

Sunday will see the cancellation of the 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. sailings from Tsawwassen, and the 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. sailings from Swartz Bay.

Cancellations are also planned from Monday to next Thursday, with the 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. sailings from Tsawwassen, and the 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. sailings from Swartz Bay affected.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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