– 5,000 trips at risk as HandyDART readies to serve strike notice

The Vancouver Province

By Frank Luba

Strike notice is set to be issued Thursday afternoon and more than 85 per cent of the 5,000 trips provided daily by TransLink’s HandyDART could be cancelled beginning Monday.

HandyDART is a door-to-door service for people with cognitive or physical disabilities that require physical assistance to use public transit. The Amalgamated Transit’s Union’s 72-hour strike notice would expire Monday, setting the stage for a strike. The only clients who could then get HandyDart service would be those requiring renal dialysis and treatment or therapy for cancer, according to a Labor Relations Board decision on essential-service levels.

Zdenka Buric, spokeswoman for the HandyDART provider, said those trips represent only about 12 per cent of the service.

The LRB decision also allows qualified managers to provide service but Buric said there were only four such personnel. There are about 500 unionized HandyDART employees, with 450 of those being drivers.

TransLink formerly ran HandyDART in conjunction with a number of organizations but consolidated the contracts and awarded a three-year deal in January to MVT Canadian Bus Inc., a subsidiary of an American company.

Talks on a new contract for workers began in the summer with Local 1724 of the ATU but stalled. The union alleges the company was asking for concessions that included cuts to pensions and benefits.

Local 1724 voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action, with 348 members voting for a strike and 12 voting against taking action.

B.C. Federation of Labor president Jim Sinclair was critical of TransLink for allowing the dispute to break out.

“If TransLink thinks they can contract out this critical service, and then pay for it by slashing wages and working conditions of British Columbians, they are very wrong,” said Sinclair in a news release.

TransLink is facing a huge economic shortfall, with the region’s council of mayor being forced to vote on raising $130 million to maintain service or make drastic cuts.


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