Employees of Riverside County Dial-A-Ride vans for seniors, disabled to go on strike
By Imran Ghori
Many senior citizen and disabled residents could be left without transportation by a planned strike of drivers and employees of the Riverside Transit Agency‘s Dial-A-Ride service.
The local chapter of SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, voted Jan. 25 in favor of a strike by a 94-percent margin, said Tom Pate, general chairman for the union.
No strike date has been determined, but the vote allows members to do so at any time, he said.
The service — which is separate from the agency’s normal bus routes — offers seniors and the disabled door-to-door rides that must be booked in advance within its 2,500-square mile service area in Riverside County.
The union represents 166 drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and call center operators for RTA’s 110 Dial-A-Ride vans that run across Riverside County. About 1,700 passengers use it daily, RTA spokesman Bradley Weaver said.
The labor dispute comes as a new contractor is getting ready to take over the the service on Saturday, Feb. 3.
The RTA board awarded a 30-month, $72 million contract, for the Dial-A-Ride to Southland Transit Inc. of El Monte in November. With the transfer from the previous operator Transdev Inc., Southland must negotiate a new contract for the employees, Weaver said.
Southland is required to provide the service under its contract, he said. If a strike occurs rides could be scaled back and the company could use taxi services and non-union employees and transport only those who need rides for critical medical needs, Weaver said.
Pate said Southland has presented employees with a contract that cuts their weekly hours from 40 to 37, takes away 24 hours of sick leave and does not include wage increases. Employees want a guaranteed 40-hour week, to keep their sick time and wage increases, he said.
“They’re low wage earners for a valuable […]