Bureaucracy versus lives, this is the disgusting world that the privatized HandyDART service is confronted with.
HandyDART workers who provide transportation and support for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities have been put on a virtual merry-go-round.
Throughout this pandemic, HandyDART workers and their union clamoured for priority for protection against COVID. Their close proximity to seniors and disabled people put both them and their passengers at higher risk.
When vaccinations became available, many saw real hope to protect passengers and workers.
The provincial government did not mandate vaccinations for paratransit workers.
TransLink has directed all its contracted services to enforce double vaccinations for anyone entering their facilities, including HandyDART. First Transit, a multinational corporation, does not have a vaccine mandate.
Now the merry go round starts.
TransLink leases or owns all HandyDART properties except for the largest bus yard, Vancouver. Therefore, most of HandyDART’s workers must be vaccinated to go to work, but not in Vancouver.
Attempts have been made to mitigate the pain of non-vaccinated workers losing their jobs while maintaining a safe work environment. ATU local 1724 (representing HandyDART workers) has made multiple attempts to find alternatives, like testing.
Meanwhile, clients and workers are caught in a bureaucratic grinder. Government, TransLink, and First Transit point their fingers at each other – no one taking on resolution or solutions.
Vaccine mandates in public transit were intended to protect the public and workers.
Bureaucratic shuffles seem less about protecting the public and workers, and more about liability.
The deadline for the mandate has been set for Dec. 20. Service for seniors and disabled people will suffer from a diminished workforce while puppetmasters have hamstrung any chance of a reasoned solution.
Mark Beeching, Langley
president and business agent of ATU local 1724
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