Via Rail Lays Off 1,000 Workers As Train Routes Cancelled

Via Rail is temporarily laying off 1,000 unionized employees as the company copes with cancelled train routes and reduced travel demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The layoffs take effect on July 24, the company said in a written statement. Affected employees will receive a temporary written layoff notice that respects the terms of their collective agreement, the Montreal-based train company said.

Via Rail is working to advance its service resumption plan and has seen some recent positive developments, though many routes remain interrupted. Several train routes have partially resumed service, while Toronto to Niagara Falls, Toronto to Vancouver, and Montreal to Halifax remain interrupted with all trains cancelled. Some of those routes are slated to resume service on November 1 of this year.

Via Rail said it plans to bring back employees "as soon as the customer demand allows it." The passenger rail service has faced a difficult year with rail blockades by indigenous groups impacting service earlier in 2020. The company temporarily laid off roughly the same number of employees in B.C. and Ontario during the rail blockades last winter. The company said in March that most of those employees would be brought back in the spring.