Two more ferry sailings were cancelled on Wednesday due to a staff member not showing up for work on time. The KING 5 Investigators have tracked the numbers. They show the latest cancellations bring the total number of cancelled or delayed trips to 58 in the last four months. During the busy summer season in 2011, only four sailings were cancelled due to staffing issues.
Also on Wednesday Gov. Chris Gregoire directed the head of the state ferry system, David Moseley, to personally brief her on the issue on a weekly basis. At a Government Management Accountability and Performance (GMAP) session in Olympia with state transportation leaders, the ferry system’s staffing problem was the first item on her agenda with Moseley.
“I’d like if I could, a weekly report on what’s going on in this situation,” said Gregoire.
Last week KING 5 reported that State Ferries was looking into the possibility that the rash of cancelled sailings was due to a potential work slow down effort by some disgruntled ferry employees. In the last year union members have taken a 3% pay cut, a reduction in overtime opportunities and a reduction in staffing levels on eight of the boats in the fleet. The Ferries Division of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) took the measures in an effort to save money in the cash strapped ferry system.
“Now there’s a concern about whether there’s an intentional work stoppage going on. What have you done? What can we expect? What’s going on?” asked Gregoire.
Moseley responded by saying his managers are investigating each cancellation and that progressive disciplinary measures are being carried out. He also said they are working with union leaders to get the word out to their members that arriving to work on time is essential to the operation. Moseley and top union officials are sending out a joint notice to all staff to underscore the high priority on fixing the problem.
“Human error does happen but there’s been a troubling increase that we need to stress in partnership with our bargaining unit,” said Moseley.
Riders who depend on the early morning boats to and from Clinton and Mukilteo were furious when their sailings were cancelled at the last minute on Wednesday morning. There have been six total cancelled or late crossings on this route between October 7 and October 24.
“This is too much,” one KING 5 viewer wrote in an email. “Emails to WSF (Washington State Ferries) have never been acknowledged, etc. etc. I have volunteered to call crew members the night before, fellow passengers have volunteered to take the Coast Guard class to get certified so we can step in to make the full required compliment of crew. What more can we do?”
Union officials tell KING 5 there is no work action taking place. They place the blame squarely on State Ferries managers who cut staffing levels on some boats this Spring. That means there’s no cushion if a crew member is suddenly sick or arrives late.