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Working In These Times

Monday, Jan 4, 2010, 8:54 am

Arbitration Ends HandyDart Strike in Canada

BY Lindsay Beyerstein

Two weeks ago, I wrote about an unusual group of British Columbia transit employees striking to protect their pensions in the face of privatization. They are HandyDART drivers, approximately 500 drivers who shepherd disabled and elderly British Columbians from point A to point B if they are unable to use public transit.

The members of Amalgamated Transit Union's Local 1724 began voting on a mediator's recommendations on December 21. Fifty-eight percent of members voted to reject the proposal. ATU spokesman Tyler Felbel told the CBC that the vote reflected his membership's profound distrust of management. One member said she voted no because she felt the recommendations were too vague.

"I cannot vote for something that is not clearly defined, because it would leave big loopholes for the company," she explained in an email to Working ITT.

The American bus company that holds the HandyDART contract, MV Transportation, had long resisted the union's request for binding arbitration.

However, on New Year's Eve, union officials announced that MVT had reversed itself and agreed to put the dispute in the hands of the province's senior arbitrator, Vince Ready. His final decision is expected next week.

The HandyDART drivers head back to work today.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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