ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Sandia Peak Tramway is ready to take passengers up to the top of the mountain once again but some employees are worried about their safety and refuse to go back to work. The company said they’re going to operate differently because of the pandemic but some employees said the changes are not enough.
After shutting down because of the pandemic, the Sandia Peak Tram is ready to open for business once again. But with health experts saying social distancing is one of the best ways to limit exposure to the virus, it’s hard to imagine how to get people inside a tramcar for a 15-minute ride safely. Sandia Peak said it can be done with extra precautions.
“We’re gonna clean every tram between each trip,” said owner Ben Abruzzo. Abruzzo said they’ll also be limiting each tram ride to 20 people a car instead of 45. They will do temperature checks and require everyone to wear face masks inside the tram car. “We transmitted those plans to the state of New Mexico a few weeks ago,” said Abruzzo.
However, a handful of tram employees said that’s not enough, especially when dealing with the high altitude. “They [the company] said they would provide protective partitions as well as PPE,” said an employee. “However, part of our jobs require us to provide CPR, first aid, oxygen, and (inaudible) if anyone passes out or has any issues. So all that plastic partition wouldn’t be protective if I had to do CPR.”
The employees wanted to remain anonymous but sent this list of demands to the tram company, it says in part: they don’t want to reopen until there’s a vaccine. But if the tram does reopen, they want hazard pay, an additional pay bump, and other demands saying if these are not met, they won’t work.
“I’m very concerned about our safety,” said the employee. “I mean, we have the Balloon Fiesta closed, we have hotels and casinos- how are we expected to have 20 people in a box?”
The company responded, reiterating that safety precautions are already in the works but are not considering a wage increase right now and said since the employees are unwilling to work based on the demands, they will be removed from the payroll immediately.
Employees said they’re shocked. “I was really upset because they didn’t acknowledge half the issues we were bringing up,” said the employee.
Abruzzo said they’re doing their best. “We’ve been working for a very long time as has the rest of New Mexico trying to figure out how to safely run a business,” said Abruzzo.
The company said about eight employees out of about 60 will not be returning. The tram is planning to reopen Thursday, July 2. The new restaurant, Ten 3, at the top of the mountain is also planning to reopen then.