February 11, 2009
A Vancouver bus driver says he has been fired for publishing a blog that describes his day-to-day experiences on the job.
Michael Cox, who completed his training with Coast Mountain Bus Company in December, started a blog called Short Turns to share with the public what he was learning about operating a bus.
“The initial impetus for the blog was for friends and family — curious about my training — but soon I got more interested in blogging about transit in general, including other cities, and was writing entries each night after my shift,” Cox told Metro in an exclusive interview.
He also blogged about Coast Mountain’s response to this winter’s snowstorms. He wrote that thousands of commuters were left stranded, but added that it was unavoidable under the circumstances.
On Jan. 15, Cox, who was still a probationary driver, received a phone call from his union representative, informing him that management was placing him on administrative leave.
The next day, Cox met with Coast Mountain management, who indicated that a complaint had been received about the Short Turns blog. They also informed him that probationary drivers could be fired for any reason.
Two hours later, he was officially terminated.
The blog had a growing local readership and was even followed by TransLink’s own Buzzer blog.
According to Cox, Jhenifer Pabillano, the Buzzer editor at TransLink, had at one point even asked him to contribute to the Buzzer’s online site.
“I think it’s foolish that they fired me rather than just talked to me about the blog,” said Cox, who is 53 and lives in East Vancouver with his wife. “In my short tenure I was a very good driver in that I enjoyed customer interaction. I thought I was doing a good job.”
Derek Zabel, media relations manager for Coast Mountain, said yesterday the company does not comment on past employees for privacy reasons.
Jim Houlahan, vice-president of CAW 111, the union representing bus drivers, confirmed it was the blog that triggered the dismissal.
“My understanding is he was terminated because of the content of his blog,” Houlahan said. “I believe he was critical of the Coast Mountain Bus Company’s service plans during the snowstorm.”
He added that the union looked into the facts and decided Cox was not discriminated against.
“Had I not been a probationary employee I most likely wouldn’t have been fired,” Cox said. “My naiveté was in thinking — if I thought about it at all — that I could write freely, on my own time, about work and not suffer repercussions for telling the truth.”
(WITH FILES FROM FERNANDO CARNEIRO)