Transit Plus drivers petition city for better working conditions
WINNIPEG -- There is growing frustration over Winnipeg's Transit Plus service, both from workers and clients. Transit Plus drivers have sent a petition to the mayor and city council, saying they are over worked, underpaid and face harassment on the job.
Dozens of Transit Plus drivers say their job is often unsafe, and when trying to get help – they are faced with a series of roadblocks.
Chaman Badohal is a lawyer speaking on behalf of the drivers and helped them draft a petition emailed to city hall.
"Any other workplace there would be zero tolerance for this stuff – like its zero tolerance for racism, zero tolerance for discrimination, but here we're turning a blind eye to whatever it is," Badohal said.
The petition obtained by CTV News, signed by 40 drivers, urges the city to take a long hard look at the employee's working conditions. It says most drivers work beyond standard hours and are paid less than minimum wage.
It added the lack of breaks and rest periods are "grave" concerns.
"One of our Sikh drivers had his beard pulled, another one of our Muslim drivers was called a terrorist, and another one has been punched in the face, directly punched in the face," Badohal said. "Another has had a bag thrown at him, and then these safety concerns go unheard."
Badohal said complaints from employees about clients don't go anywhere. She said there are issues with scheduling and a lack of oversight when it comes to the private companies awarded Transit Plus contracts,
"I've taken a look at the email and there are serious issues raised there," said Coun. Brian Mayes. "We should try to bring some of this Handi-Transit work back in house. I've suggested 30 per cent, the petitioners say 'let's bring it all back, so the city operates it directly' – I don't know if we're ready to do that just yet."
But it's not just the drivers who are frustrated with the Transit Plus. Last year the service received 5,000 complaints from clients.
"We're really just running public transportation as a money making operation and we're putting people lives at risk," said Patrick Stewart, a consultant at the Independent Living Resource Centre. "Every turn, the city has really been unwilling to look underneath this rock. I think maybe it's because they're afraid of what they'll find."