Saturday, June 6, 2009

Musing on Specialized Transit Strikes

Kingston is on day 52 of the Access Bus strike and the majority of their 3,600 registered passengers are literally stranded in their homes.

I find it shocking that in last Tuesday's city council meeting the mayor made it abundantly clear that the city could do nothing to resolve this. They cannot get involved in a labour dispute.

This means that, other than the city having a partially accessible city bus service, people with disabilities have no way to get out of their homes for anything. They can't get out for medical appointments or to any of the other things that most people are able to take for granted. The accessible taxi's in Kingston were taken off the road in 2004 when the vehicles got too old, and they were never replaced.

In trying to find a resolve I remembered that Ottawa had a Para Transpo strike many years ago so I decided to do some searching to see how they coped. I was hoping to find tips which woud help us to get our service restored.

What I found was that Ottawa passengers at least had a few more options than the passengers in Kingston. Para Transpo was still able to provide service to those who needed to get to medical appointments, all medical appointments, not just to dialysis and they had accessible taxi's, 40% of their city buses accessible, and a much more supportive network of volunteers and non-profits to help those who had a disability. Kingston has very little of this.

With only one or two non-unionized managers at Access Bus with a valid class B license to legally drive the bus, the service has had to restrict themselves to only providing service for dialysis passengers. Management tried to negotiate an agreement, when the strike first went out, where one or two drivers would continue to drive so service could still be provided to those who were in need of transportation to medical appointments but the drivers and the CAW refused.

What makes it even more frustrating is the CAW, the union who is representing the bus drivers, have taken out radio ads to apologize to the passengers for the strike and then ask them to lobby their city councillor to get the buses back on the road. The thing is, this is wrong information. Under the Ontario Labour Law, the only level of government who can apply pressure to restore service is the province. This leaves the disabled citizens of Kingston in one heck of a spot. There is no end in sight because the two sides have stopped talking.

The disabled citizens of Kingston are being held hostage in their homes while the drivers take strike action to increase their personal level of comfort on the job. I wonder how they would feel if they had a disability and had no way to get out of their home for days and weeks on end? I doubt they would accept it because it is for lack of a lunch room that this whole thing got started in the first place.

To read more about the Ottawa Para Transpo strike, please read:

Resolution too late for Para Transpo users


Important information for Para Transpo customers

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1 comment:

stephenn richardsonn said...

I wonder how they would feel if they had a disability and had no way to get out of their home for days?

Kingston Centre for Independent Living provide a range of services to ensure that disabled people who live, work or study in Kingston are able to lead independent lives.