Keep public services public

Burnaby Now

Dear Editor:

Our public services are rapidly being taken over by private, profit-seeking corporations. More and more they are providing the services that were once provided by the public sector, which is accountable to the voters. Now new contracts are being signed between government and the private sector that are kept secret in the name of business interests.

We have no idea whether these companies are living up to their contracts; we can only monitor the quality of service they provide. Advocates for seniors in private, for-profit care facilities are finding many problems ranging from shortages of staff to poor quality food. Private companies are sub-contracting services like cleaning and care. Recently, three of these sub-contractors providing care staffing went bankrupt, causing disruption.

Management is under constant pressure to increase profits, and one way to do that is to cut back on staff and wages and benefits. B.C. TransLink, our public transit system, has contracted with the American company MVT to manage the HandyDART service, and now the system is embroiled in a strike.

Transit service to the disabled has not been available since the end of October, leaving many prisoners in their own homes. MVT management has refused the union offer to go to binding arbitration for fear they will not get all the concessions they are demanding. With the company refusing to bargain, no one knows when the service will resume.

Boosting profits is the prime objective of MVT, providing a critical service is simply a means to that end. Meanwhile the people dependent on the HandyDART drivers to come and pick them up – so they can escape their depression-causing isolation and resume their lives – continue to wait.

TransLink contracted out its responsibility to provide quality services and to provide fair conditions for workers. I think TransLink should be held responsible for getting MVT back to bargaining or demand they accept the union offer of arbitration. We should not be content to allow the rights of disabled people to be so callously disregarded.

Elsie Dean, Burnaby

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