«If the laws change, we have to comply, but their jobs are not in jeopardy anyhow. »
They’re at the centre of a language crossfire, but Ottawa’s bus drivers seem unconcerned with a city man’s bid to make them provide service in English and French.
An estimated 40 per cent of OC Transpo’s 1,700 drivers are bilingual, but the remaining 60 per cent who only speak English have nothing to fear in wake of Orleans resident Michel Thibodeau’s bid to have them speak both official languages, their union head says.
“It means nothing,” said André Cornellier, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, representing OC Transpo workers. “When these people were hired, they had to speak English and that’s all there is to it. If the laws change, we have to comply, but their jobs are not in jeopardy anyhow.”
Thibodeau lodged an official complaint against OC Transpo last November, demanding that bus drivers greet passengers, call out stops and make announcements in both languages.
The city is investigating Thibodeau’s complaint, said city clerk Pierre Page.
“The manager of French language services will come back with the conclusions of her investigation. We’ll go from there.”
But Cornellier said if the prospect of enforced bilingualism concerns drivers, they’re not showing it. Even if OC Transpo changes future hiring practices, current bus drivers won’t have to learn French.
“If this guy is successful and they change the rules, then we’ll deal with the rules,” he said. “But right now, nobody should be afraid for their job because they only speak English.”