Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Halifax Transit Strike: Illegal Access-A-Bus?

Right now in Halifax, Nova Scotia there is a transit strike going on between Metro Transit (the city) and the transit union (the drivers) over contract negotiations. I am not going to get into the specifics of demands from both sides. I would highly recommend checking out journalist Tim Bousquet from The Coast. His insights and unbiased journalism are a credit to his profession and there is much to be learned by the public in regards to many issues the mainstream media has misled the public with the help of the City of course.

No, what I am here to talk about is a discussion I had with an anonymous source from the picket lines. As an activist, I felt compelled to go and meet some of these bus drivers to hear from them their version of the story. I was not surprised much, however there are some rather interesting comments that were made that I would like to share with you all. Bear in mind that I have absolutely no physical evidence to substantiate (back this up) these claims. They do however, come direct from the mouths of striking workers. Here goes:

  1. The bus drivers KNEW the strike was going to happen long enough before the public did that some bus drivers who knew it was coming put in transfers to drive Access-A-Buses. Now, why is that relevant at all? I will tell you what I was told: because when they went on strike in 1998, the Access-A-Bus was the only running coaches of Metro Transit and those drivers were paid full wages during the strike. It is no wonder one might choose to transfer if one had the knowledge of an impending strike (sounds very close to insider trading).
  2. This little point is the kicker. So, again, just repeating what I have heard. Apparently, the city brought in coaches from Montreal (yeah, that major city TWO provinces over) to provide transportation to those needing to travel for medical reasons (i.e.: dialysis) as Access-A-Buses were not running. The supervisors/managers are apparently driving these buses and this is where the legality of things was brought into question. Apparently the regulations surrounding coaches that transport handicapped persons in Quebec are different than those in Nova Scotia. What it boils down to is that Metro Transit is using buses that are not properly identified in regards to the law and they also lack certain requirements mandatory for transporting passengers. Metro Transit "claims" that since there is no charge to the riders, it is not a transit service however consider the following:
  • Metro Transit paid for the temporary buses.
  • Metro Transit employees drive the buses and are paid to do so.  
  • Metro Transit claims that since there is no fair being charged, that the people they are transporting are not passengers.
If Metro Transit is paying for the buses; driving the buses; and scheduling the buses how can they claim that this is not a Metro Transit operation. What it boils down to is that IF there were in accident with one of these buses, the city would be financially liable to all passengers in the vehicle. Metro Transit is trying to go cheap by attempting to circumnavigate the laws of road safety.

As far as the bus drivers go, they are a nice bunch. Very open to conversation and intelligent conversation I might add. Bus drivers are not all bus drivers by trade. Among the many men and women who are on strike there includes former doctors, lawyers, RCMP and several retired military personnel. This does not sound like the 'bunch of idiots' our fair city has made them out to be.

As a final note, please remember I am but repeating some of what was shared with me by some of these striking bus drivers. The first point made is truth and fact; the second? Well, I can only hope that the city of Halifax would have more competence than risk the lives of its citizens and the potential taxpayers cost of a lawsuit if they are indeed driving the buses illegally. Perhaps an up and coming reporter will read this and dig a little deeper and uncover some concrete proof for us. Until inspiration reaches me again. Love each other as you would love yourself.