Heading into the long weekend, BC Ferries was warning travellers that with the Queen of Coquitlam out of service Route 3 would be “extremely busy” because “due to peak season demand, all other major vessels are serving other communities and can’t be redeployed.”
And that’s exactly how the Canada Day weekend played out, with delays, overloads and long lines of traffic. Overloads continued into Tuesday night with a two-sailing wait at times to depart Langdale.
The Queen of Surrey and Queen of Coquitlam usually work in tandem on the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay run over the summer months and BC Ferries put together a modified schedule using only the Surrey that included 4 a.m. sailings out of Langdale and 5:10 a.m. trips out of Horseshoe Bay.
BC Ferries did not have statistics on the number of long weekend delays and overloads or traffic numbers for the early-morning sailings available at Coast Reporter’s deadline.
The company also arranged for special water taxis to encourage travellers to leave their vehicles behind and take pressure off the main sailings. BC Ferries said Tuesday its preliminary estimate is that more than 800 people used the water taxi service from June 27 to July 1.
In a June 26 release announcing the anticipated heavy traffic and modified schedule, BC Ferries asked travellers to “please keep in mind that this situation is also challenging for the front line staff and BC Ferries requests that every employee be treated with respect.”
The BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union (BCFMWU) highlighted the same concerns, and launched a campaign and website, www.stopferryworkerabuse.ca, just before the long weekend.
The campaign’s key message is “abuse is never ‘part of the job’” and the union called on BC Ferries to enforce a zero tolerance policy for worker abuse, which it said its members face every day, just for doing their job.
In one section of the website the BCFMWU said, “82 per cent of workers surveyed have suffered abuse including threats, harassment, or physical violence from passengers. Over half say that abuse affects their mental health. Worse still, BC Ferries doesn’t always stand up for their workers – in some cases, management even rewards abusive passengers.”
In a written statement for Coast Reporter, BC Ferries said: “BC Ferries has zero tolerance for abuse of its employees. We are committed to providing a safe and respectful workplace. Abusive conduct or comments will not be tolerated and may result in a denial of service.”
The statement also said it has a “Respect in the Workplace” policy and every employee has the right to expect and shall receive fair, courteous and considerate treatment. All employees will be treated with dignity and respect, free of discrimination.
“If an employee raises a concern or a complaint, the matter is to be investigated as fairly, quickly and effectively as possible while maintaining the confidentiality of those concerned as far as this is possible,” the statement said. “On rare occasions, police are called if required.”
BC Ferries is also advising Route 3 travellers to prepare for heavy traffic leaving Langdale on July 11 as the BC Bike Race competitors leave the Coast for the next leg of the race.