MVT CanadaAs I follow the ongoing saga of MTV Canada vs. its employees, I am reminiscent of the biblical story of David and Goliath, the employees in this case being David.

I first became enamoured with the dispute between MTV Canada (an American firm) and its Canadian employees when I read what I consider a very biased article by Harvey Enchin of the Vancouver Sun entitled, “HandyDart workers have a good offer on the table. They should take it

A good news story should have balance in its reporting, something Enchin seems to have missed in this instance as he espoused the values of the company and the supposed negativity of the Union without offering one iota of detail from an employee’s perspective.

I wanted to know more, with that in mind I decided to do my own research, by approaching the employees of MVT Canada for their side of this seemingly convoluted story. Based on the nature of the situation the names of those who were willing to speak have been changed out of respect of their current situation.

The first individual we will call Sarah. Sarah is an employee and a client of MVT Canada or as we know it, Handy Dart.
Sarah had put her thoughts to paper and presented them to me. Based on the content I felt impelled to present the entire letter as follows:
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“I have 2 sides to my opinion about how MVT is running the company. I am a driver who has been off on Long Term Disability for 11 months following a motorcycle accident.

When I got hit, I didn’t realize I would now be a HandyDART client as well as an employee. I was confident that I would have a good experience as a client, because as a driver, I knew how hard we all worked at getting people to their destinations….safely, congenially and on time.

When MVT came into the picture, I was being optimistic. They said that they wouldn’t change anything about the company. They said that the customers would benefit because there would be more opportunity to call for bookings 7 days in advance. They said that there would be more buses on the road and more employees to handle the increase in ridership.

They lied.

The week that MVT took over, I noticed a difference. A small one, but a difference. My rides were late outside of the window. I thought surely this was just a problem due to the fact that they’re just getting organized. I optimistically gave them a month to sort out their problems.

It only got worse.

I was starting to hear from the drivers that they time they were given to pick me up was NOT the time I was given over the phone from the booking agents. Who, I might add, seemed increasingly more confused about the city of Vancouver. I thought this too was odd. That they had hired new people, but people who had absolutely no idea how long it takes to get from one place to another because they had no clue how far apart each destination was and they didn’t have a clue about where construction was.

I started being late for my appointments, so I started to book my HandyDART earlier and earlier to compensate for the problems I was having. This still didn’t make a difference, because on 3 occasions they were so late that I was waiting up to an hour and a half.

Once, I waited an hour and a half for a ride only to find out that dispatch had given my ride to someone who was on their break. They actually assumed he would cut his break short to come and get me. Fortunately, he took his break and took care of himself, but unfortunately for me, I got the brunt of it.

They gave it to him when my window had ended. That was when his break had just begun. So…he had to finish his break, then travel to get me. Hour and a half sitting on the curb of the street with no back support amongst decades of ages of bubblegum and cigarette butts. By the time they came, I was in so much pain I had to call my partner to drive all the way to the heights of North Vancouver to come and get me from my friends BBQ because my time was now cut short. Not only because of the fact that my ride to come and pick me up would be there within half an hour, but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even take the HandyDART ride home. I needed our vehicle with a reclining seat and had tears all the way home.

Where was my independence? Gone.

Another time, I waited in the rain for a HandyDART who was late outside my window and the lovely dispatch said, “Well it’s only 5 minutes over schedule.”

Sure…5 minutes…when you’ve already waited 30 minutes in the rain again in a seat which is damaging your already injured neck and back…35 mintues is a long time.

Needless to say, I called after 15 minutes to say again, where’s my ride? “Oh they’re right around the corner” was the response. Had to wait almost another 15 minutes from there and when I called to find out just what was going on, and why this keeps happening the dispatch told me that there just wasn’t enough buses and that booking agents are told to over book the rides.

In other words, clients stopped mattering. Money took the forefront for MVT.

My very last ride before the strike, which happened to be my very last ride as a client, was pure hell.

I waited my half our as per usual. No ride. I called. No answer for 30 minutes. So, now I’ve been waiting an hour. But to add insult to injury, I had no minutes on my phone, so those 30 minutes at $1/minute cost me $30. $30 out of pocket just to find out where my ride was.

When I finally got through, they told me, “Well we sent you a cab.” Swell. So I’ve been waiting for a HandyDART, cabs at my physio are lined up sometimes 6 at a time, and contrary to what the company believes, the cab drivers DO NOT get out to tell you they are there for you. They told HandyDART I was a ‘no show’. Right…I was sitting right in the doorway you knuckle draggers.

So, they sent ‘another cab’. By this point, my sugar levels had dropped and I was due for my lunch. I brought a snack that I ate after my physio as per usual while waiting for my ride and this usually lasts for me to get home to have a proper lunch. But not this time. I was at this point having to wait an hour and 15 with no lunch.

Cabs were lined up and of course, none of them came to tell me they were here for me. So I walked all the way over in the rain, went from cab to cab and asked if they were there to pick me up. They all shake their heads no, one at a time.

I really couldn’t afford to call dispatch again, so I asked to use my physiotherapist’s phone. They were so unhappy that I was still waiting they obliged.

I find out now at an hour and a half that they called me a ‘no show’ again. Now I’m shaking from sugar drop, my back and neck are so tense I can barely walk and finally…finally…the manager at dispatch gets on the phone and tells me cab number 116 will be there to pick me up.

Hour and a half.

When I was driving for HandyDART run by Pacific Transit Co-operative, this would never have happened. The wonderful dispatch would have taken matters into their own hands and taken care of business right when it happened.

They can’t do that now because MVT is breathing down their necks not allowing them to take care of the clients.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a bus and the driver has had more than one addition added to the list and they just look at me with stress saying, “Well, you might be late. They’ve given me a ride that is from the other direction”. These additions given by a dispatch that I’ve worked with in the past whom would never under any circumstances make you late because they cared about you and the client.

Something else I found as a client, so many times I’ve heard, “I haven’t even had my coffee break”, and they’re more than half way through the shift.

Driving is a stressful enough job without the added pressures of too many rides put in to their day causing them to miss breaks or just be under so much pressure to try to keep up with the demand that they can’t do their job safely.

As a client, I’ve seen the quality of HandyDART go down the tubes. As a driver, I’ve seen my co-workers under so much stress that I worry for the safety of the passengers they’re transporting.

MVT is only here for one thing. Money. Not people. Not clients, not drivers, not improvement of independence in a person with disabilities’ life.

I’m pretty sure a Canadian company would have more compassion for their employees and their clients. U.S. companies are used to treating people like dirt and U.S. people are used to taking it. Canadians will not. We know what we deserve and this is not it. The fight is on and there is so much support for the workers of HandyDART that I know we will win the fight for humane treatment. Not to mention our pensions, benefits, full time hours and dignity.”

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As was reported in the news HandyDart had issued a 72-hour strike notice and as pointed out by Enchin (of the Vancouver Sun) they (HandyDart employees) went on strike that Monday. “Since Monday, HandyDart drivers and other employees have been on strike… “

He goes on to write in his column, “Their job action has left thousands of our most vulnerable citizens at risk, alone and housebound.” What he fails to mention or neglected to find to research for his article is that according to a second HandyDart employee whom I interviewed, was the pre-empted work stoppage by MVT itself on the Sunday, one day prior to the strike taking place.

As Delmar (the name has been changed) stated, “On that Sunday, (one day before the strike was to begin) without notice to staff or clientele, cleared the booking board of ALL appointments except essential services. Unionized office staff and drivers were not informed of the MVT cancellation of service for HandyDart customers until they (the employees) arrived for work as scheduled.
According to Delmar, the problems at HandyDart started shortly after MVT took over the HandyDart service when it staff started to receive bills for January and February 2009 in their mail for Medical benefits that had previously been paid by the company as part of their benefits package.

Delmar states that once the union approached the company about the situation they were readily assured that the problem would be resolved. However, he continues this was not to be the case as the billings continued to arrive asking for payment.
It was then that Delmar decided to take matters into his own hand and contact the Ministry of Health. The customer service agent informed him that MTV Canada had not applied for the medical plan it stated it was providing its employees, until then he was responsible for paying for the medical plan himself until MVT applied to take over.

“It was not until”, Delmar stated, “I took my findings to the Human Resources Department at MVT that the company applied to provide the promised medical plan for its employees.”

“Others areas of contention we have with the MVT take over, Delmar continued, ‘was with our company pension plan. As of January 1, 2009 no money was being withheld for our long standing Registered Savings Plan.” “MVT”, he commented, “had decided when it took over the Handy Dart contract that it did not want to apply to continue the pension plan as per the contract that was in place prior to the takeover.”

“They later,” he continued,” applied for the pension plan and were denied because they (MVT) only wanted a temporary status.” “As of September 1, 2009, the company started deducting money from the employees’ paychecks for their Municipal Pension Plan. `But as we were informed,” he commented, “it was not going into the pre-existing RSP but rather the money was being held by the company for a future pension plan yet to be determined.“ “To date“, he exclaimed, “ we do not know where our money is!“

You can view other areas of contention between MVT C Canada and its employees here. “HandyDART info`… news & views“

MV Public Transportation
“ Thinking of WORKING for MV Transportation? Then please read this before doing so!… The “Owners “…and Jon Monson” didn’t want to hear about their “Problem Child” Mr. Schell… How about the WRONG man for the job, especially one with ice water in his veins and a distain for his employees?“

It should be noted that Mr. Schell now manages MVT Canada.

African immigrants sue transportation firm, alleging bias [USA]
“Nine East African immigrants filed a lawsuit…against MV Transportation…alleging discrimination based on nationality and religion…The lawsuit…alleges that the plaintiffs faced “severe and pervasive harassment and other discrimination…” The complaint is chiefly against one manager…who allegedly told the plaintiffs they had no rights as immigrants and that they were earning too much money“

In respect to the latter Delmar commented that MTV Canada informed office staff that they were to have NO personal items on their desk, including family photos. Many staff have placed Canadian Flags on their desks in protest. To date the company has neither rescinded the memo nor forced anyone to remove the flags.

HandyDart from a user’s, and a driver’s, perspective
“HandyDart saves the government money and should not be considered a profit-making situation for a private firm. Drivers are entitled to make a fair living wage….“

HandyDart from a user’s, and a driver’s, perspective cont:
“ If the union membership votes to continue the strike, perhaps the LRB could be persuaded to revise what it considers essential so that more buses could be back in service immediately.”

Conclusion:

Personally, I am not a big union fan, as I believe in most cases they have become as corrupt and self-absorbed as the employers they once challenged on behalf of the working class; however, in many cases they are still provide some security for the employee. I say this because I see companies such as MVT and others like them as profit driven mercenaries who will stop at nothing in their quest to line their corporate pockets.

It is natural for every company, big or small to need to turn a profit to be successful, but they must also remember a company is only as successful as the people who work hard to help make it a success, from the CEO down to the labourers.
I do believe in researching my topics to the best of my ability before commenting to ensure I am as unbiased as possible, which sadly was not the case of Harvey Enchin. Harvey`s piece about the MVT conflict resounded of a one sided hypocrisy reminiscent of an individual who has taken a bribe to use his powers as a reporter in an attempt to sway his readers into thinking MVT was an innocent party in the present demise of the HandyDart ridership.

Unlike Enchin I am as opposed to what MVT Canada really is, a for profit company attempting to circumvent Canadian Labour standards at the cost of both its employees and its clientele. Does this situation now enamour me to the Unions, no, it just makes me less sympathetic towards MVT whose sole agenda is to add to its ever-increasing corporate coffers at the expense of the Canadian working class and elderly who rely on the HandyDart system and the benefits it is supposed to provide.

“O` Canada!”

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