Gregoire demands answers into ferries' chronic staffing issues

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Chris Gregoire is questioning the head of the state's ferry system as to why staff shortages are forcing ferry runs to be canceled.

Millions of people rely on our state ferries to get to work or school every day and most cannot afford to be left on the dock because someone didn't show up for work.

But so far, 52 ferry runs on various routes have been canceled due to what the ferries termed as staffing issues. That compares to just four missed sailings last summer.

At a meeting in Olympia, Gregoire questioned the head of state ferries about all the missed sailings this summer. She asked David Moseley, "What have you done? What can we expect? What's going on?"

"You know I want to know what the investigations are finding out," Moseley said. "I want to know and we'll provide that information to her every Monday morning."

Gregoire has now asked David Moseley for a weekly report on how he's addressing the problem.

Moseley says the reasons for the cancellations stem from workers missing schedules, calling in sick on short notice, or even dispatchers making a mistake on scheduling.

"We need our people to be more diligent," Moseley said. "We need our people to understand the important of being there on time so that first sailing of the morning goes off."

A letter also went out to ferry workers Monday -- signed by both the head of state ferries and the union -- asking workers to be more diligent, check assignments, set an alarm clock, and confirm time off.

"We wanted to convey the most important part of that letter is that this is something that both management and labor agree," Moseley said.

Some have accused ferry workers of staging a work stoppage in protest of lower staffing levels that went into effect in June, but workers we spoke with say they are not in any way missing work on purpose.