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LRT sees a record-low six working trains amidst an array of unrelated failures in 24 hours – Ottawa Citizen

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Transpo and RTM, the main contractor, acknowledged the pain of passengers to media Thursday, but also said they believe better times are coming.

Six trains running. Out of 17.

When light rail service began to fall apart Wednesday night, it wasn’t the weather’s fault. Instead, one mechanical failure after another knocked train after train out of service, reaching a record low of six working trains out of the promised 13 (and total of 17) by late Thursday morning.

And it stayed at six trains into the afternoon peak period. Citizen transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert said a seventh train “died” without reaching the main line. (A seventh did launch later in the afternoon.)

Transpo and RTM, the main contractor, acknowledged the pain of passengers to media Thursday, but also said they believe better times are coming.

Transpo general manager John Manconi talked repeatedly about the goal of “service, service, service.”

RTM president Peter Lauch told reporters: “We’re moving forward.”

Underlying that optimism was a messy series of failures overnight that saw passengers escorted along the tracks from three dead trains — including one through the tunnel downtown.

Here’s how the damage stacked up.

It began with a new source of trouble. The overhead power line for the electric trains is held up by a series of poles, and each pole has an arm sticking out with a cable dangling from it, like a fishing rod and fishing line. The power wire hangs from that.

East of St. Laurent, an operator noticed during the afternoon that a cable holding the power line was broken. The operator stopped. (Lauch says a component of this support system “looked like it had some pitting and some corrosion,” but the cause is still under investigation.)

With these support arms, “we’re finding that there is some corrosion on them,” especially where they stand beside sections of highway and get a lot of salty road spray, he said.

As RTM assessed that, another train became immobilized east of Tremblay, “and this was related to the earlier wire damage,” Transpo says. Off walked the passengers, in came the R1 buses to replace all train service in the east end.

Then a third train lost power at uOttawa Station at 7:20 p.m., forcing all trains to share a single track past that area and slowing service. A fourth train suffered a door problem that took it out of service at about 8:45 p.m. More delay.

Full service was finally restored with a reduced number of trains after midnight.

Thursday began with nine trains in service. (Transpo: “Vehicle availability was challenged.”) But a power issue knocked out one train before 6 a.m. and another by 6:45 a.m. That left seven.

Another train broke down just before the 11 a.m. media session; causes weren’t immediately known.

And then there were six. And none of the damage was caused by the storm.

Four of the breakdowns were the familiar “power issues.” This is centred on the inductors, the rooftop devices that take power from the overhead lines and channel it into the train. Inductors have been suffering from dirt and salt which cause arcing, and sometimes makes the circuit breakers shut down power to a train. When this happens, a train must be taken out of service for inspection.

In one case Thursday, passengers had to walk about 15 metres through the tunnel outside Rideau Station, with escorts.

Paramedics had to help one passenger evacuated from a train near Tremblay on Wednesday night when she had a panic attack.

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Lauch said RTM is gradually toughening up trains by putting covers on inductors to keep out dirt and salt from road spray, and so far it has performed this on 19 of the 34 cars, meaning there are enough upgrades for eight complete trains of two cars each. “Right now as we’re speaking, they are being put on six more” cars. “Another eight to 10 days and they should all be done.”

He added: “They are good vehicles.”

Transpo has responded to the shortage of trains by extending S1 and R1 bus service. The homeward-bound S1 service started at 1 p.m. and R1 buses were scheduled to run parallel to the trains all through Thursday, but Transpo said service “will be fragile.”

Wright-Gilbert said in a radio interview that the news conference was “the regular refrain from RTM” that “we’re looking into it,” but the root causes still have not been found.

“These trains are cheap (and) they are not designed for our climate,” she said. “In my experience, the cheapest option is not always the best option and anyone who orders from Amazon could tell you that that’s true.”

“I haven’t been satisfied with RTG/RTM since they started speaking publicly … RTM is not doing their job. There’s no other way to say this; they’re not doing their job.”

Catherine McKenney from Somerset ward said RTM continues “to fail to deliver anything close” to proper service.

Coun. Shawn Menard from Capital ward criticized the public-private partnership as a failure.

More to come.

tspears@postmedia.com

twitter.com/TomSpears1

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Ontario passes new rules aimed at work-life balance for employees – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Ontario government has passed new laws it says will help employees disconnect from the office and create a better work-life balance.

On Tuesday, the government said it passed the “Working for Workers Act,” which requires Ontario businesses with 25 people or more to have a written policy about employees’ rights when it comes to disconnecting from their job at the end of the day.

These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working, the government says.

According to the act, between January 1 and March 1 of each year an employer must ensure it has a written policy in place for all employees with respect to disconnecting from work.

“We are determined to rebalance the scales and put workers in the driver’s seat of Ontario’s economic growth while attracting the best workers to our great province,” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in a statement Tuesday.

The act also bans the use of non-compete clauses, which prevent people from exploring other work opportunities and higher salaries at other jobs.

According to the government, Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to ban non-compete agreements in employment.

McNaughton says the new laws not only protects workers’ rights, but also will help to attract top talent and investments to the province.

The act also removes “unfair” work experience requirements for foreign-trained immigrants trying to work in their professions. 

It also introduces a mandatory licencing framework for temporary help agencies and recruiters to help prevent labour trafficking.

“This legislation is another step towards building back a better province and cementing Ontario’s position as a global leader, for others to follow, as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family,” McNaughton said.

A government spokesperson told CTV News Toronto that while the act has not yet received royal assent, it is expected to later this week.

Timelines for when each law under the Working For Workers Act will come into effect have not been announced yet and the government said it there will be a initial grace period for businesses.

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Asian factories shake off supply headaches but Omicron presents new risks

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Asian factory activity grew in November as crippling supply bottlenecks eased, but rising input costs and renewed weakness in China dampened the region’s prospects for an early, sustained recovery from pandemic paralysis.

The newly detected Omicron coronavirus variant has also emerged as a fresh worry for the region’s policymakers, who are already grappling with the challenge of steering their economies out of the doldrums while trying to tame inflation amid rising commodity costs and parts shortages.

China’s factory activity fell back into contraction in November, the private Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed on Wednesday, as soft demand and elevated prices hurt manufacturers.

The findings from the private-sector survey, which focuses more on small firms in coastal regions, stood in contrast with those in China’s official PMI on Tuesday that showed manufacturing activity unexpectedly rose in November, albeit at a very modest pace.

“Relaxing constraints on the supply side, especially the easing of the power crunch, quickened the pace of production recovery,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, in a statement accompanying the data release.

“But demand was relatively weak, suppressed by the COVID-19 epidemic and rising product prices.”

Beyond China, however, factory activity seemed to be on the mend with PMIs showing expansion in countries ranging from Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japan’s PMI rose to 54.5 in November, up from 53.2 in October, the fastest pace of expansion in nearly four years.

South Korea’s PMI edged up to 50.9 from 50.2 in October, holding above the 50-mark threshold that indicates expansion in activity for a 14th straight month.

But output shrank in South Korea for a second straight month as Asia’s fourth-largest economy struggles to fully regain momentum in the face of persistent supply chain disruptions.

“Overall, with new export orders flooding back to countries previously hamstrung by Delta outbreaks and the disruption further down the supply chain still working through, there is plenty of scope for a continued rebound in regional industry,” said Alex Holmes, emerging Asia economist at Capital Economics.

India’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in 10 months in November, buoyed by a strong pick-up in demand.

Vietnam’s PMI rose to 52.2 in November from 52.1 in October, while that of the Philippines increased to 51.7 from 51.0.

Taiwan’s manufacturing activity continued to expand in November but at a slower pace, with the index hitting 54.9 compared with 55.2 in October. The picture was similar for Indonesia, which saw PMI ease to 53.9 from 57.2 in October.

The November surveys likely did not reflect the spread of the Omicron variant that could add further pressure on pandemic-disrupted supply chains, with many countries imposing fresh border controls to seal themselves off.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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ANZ faces class action for “unfair” interest charged from credit card customers

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has been sued by a law firm for charging interest on some purchases by credit card holders which were repaid on time for nearly a decade, the parties said on Wednesday.

The law firm, Phi Finney McDonald, filed a class-action suit in the federal court against Australia’s No. 4 lender for charging interest between July 2010 and January 2019 on purchases that should have been interest-free.

“The terms of ANZ’s contract made it impossible for a typical consumer to understand that they would be charged retrospective interest, even on purchases which they repaid on time,” the law firm said in a statement.

Australia outlawed charging retrospective interest in January 2019.

The lawsuit alleged “unfair contract terms and unconscionable conduct” by the bank, but did not specify the damages it was seeking against ANZ in the federal court.

ANZ said in a statement it would review the claim that its contract contravened the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal actions faced by Australia‘s top banks, ranging from breach of consumer protection credit laws to charging financial advice fees to dead customers.

Scrutiny of Australian lenders and financial institutions has ramped up significantly since a Royal Commission inquiry in 2018 found widespread shortcomings in the sector, forcing companies and regulators to take swift action.

 

(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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