Maintenance employees of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) have been concerned about a “heavy trend” towards subcontracting in recent months. Their union denounces a sharp increase in costs associated with it.

“There have always been small issues of privatization, but there, we are giving work to the outside at double and triple the price for no reason. However, the bus fleet is in a good position. We find it absurd, ”explains a spokesperson for the Syndicat du transport de Montréal (CSN), Simon-Pierre Robillard.

His group has seen a gradual increase in outsourcing in recent months. “It started with service vehicles. We saw contracts for inspection and repair that totaled $700,000 and $500,000,” laments Mr. Robillard. Today, about 25% of inspections are done externally, he says, or about 60 out of more than 215 annually.

Since the discontinuation of the production and reconditioning of bus brake calipers in-house two years ago, the union estimates that the losses are also considerable.

“In 2022 alone, we purchased 945 new front calipers, which cost $700 each, and 1,400 new rear calipers, which cost $800 each. If they had been refurbished, the cost would instead be $480 and $495. In other words, we would have saved more than $600,000. And that’s just for a year, “slips the union agent, who regrets that most other transport companies continue to do their stirrups.

The principle is the same for transmissions, which have been “often” restored externally for a few months, according to the union. “To rebuild a 1400 type transmission, used on most STM vehicles, it costs internally approximately $8036 including parts and labor. There, they have just given a contract of more than $25,000 to a company, ”illustrates Mr. Robillard.

At the STM, we say we are “aware of the union’s demands”. “Proceedings are underway on the ground. We are open to continuing the discussions to work towards finding beneficial solutions,” said its spokesperson, Philippe Déry.

He points out that “the majority of mechanical maintenance work is still done in-house, but that “we need to operate at a fair cost and ensure that we deliver reliable public transit service.” Certain “specific mechanical maintenance mandates” are therefore “delegated to specialized suppliers taking into account the capacity of our teams”, insists Mr. Déry.

In the case of the reworking of certain parts, “it is normal that this operation has limits; something as critical as a brake caliper, for example, cannot be continually reconditioned,” the spokesperson said. “For reasons of safety and service reliability, it becomes necessary to replace with new ones,” he continues. “It is necessary to take into consideration all the costs associated with these measures, including the cost of internal human resources,” concludes Mr. Déry.