The Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) announced Wednesday, April 29 that because of a driver walkout, buses were not operating.
But some bus service may be restored as early as Wednesday afternoon, according to Mike Ake, senior vice president of operations for Keolis, which operates the Greensboro bus system.
Ake said that the drivers were being contacted and early Wednesday afternoon several had already reported back to work.
Greensboro contracts with Keolis to operate the city’s public transportation system, so the bus drivers and other employees who walked out on Wednesday are Keolis employees, not employees of the City of Greensboro.
What happened was that every morning the drivers are asked the four questions established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if someone may need to be tested for coronavirus. The fourth question asks if you have been exposed to someone with coronavirus and all the drivers answered yes to that question, which means according to protocol they would be sent home and told to be checked by their own doctor and if they received a clean bill of health could come back to work.
He said the drivers were all being called and said, “We expect to have them all back in the facility in the afternoon.”
Ake said the drivers would be checked by a medical professional when they were at the facility on Meadowview Road and bus service could be restored in the afternoon.
Despite the fact that GTA is running a limited service, Ake said that Keolis had not laid off a single employee in Greensboro due to the coronavirus.
He said that Keolis had purchased 50 iPads and set up a system of e-classes for drivers and other employees to take when they were not needed on the job because of the reduced service. He said, “We want to keep them employed. Keep them paid and not have to lay anybody off.”
Ake said that this afternoon that along with medical tests the drivers would have the possible consequences of an unauthorized work stoppage explained and the importance of the service they were providing to the community by providing transportation to healthcare workers and other people in essential services would be emphasized.
Ake said that Keolis recognized that the drivers were being put in harms way and they were being paid a 5 percent premium for working during the COVID-19 crisis. And that Keolis had taken a lot of measures to make that risk as low as possible including sanitizing the buses every night and once during the day, providing personal protective gear for the drivers and protective shields.
Also, passengers are entering through the rear door, the seats near the driver are being left vacant and no fares are being collected, all reducing the drivers’ exposure to passengers.
Ake said, “We hope they come back to work.”