Profit Over People

Why is TransLink using a company with a history of safety violations and poor performance to operate HandyDART?

“The company submitted the lowest bid by a ‘fairly significant’ amount, according to TransLink, but CEO Kevin Desmond says that won’t mean a reduction in quality.” 

CBC News (2017), “TransLink selects new company to oversee HandyDART services”

Since 2009, HandyDART has been operated by a series of multinational corporations that have made millions off their service agreements with TransLink, while Metro Vancouver taxpayers foot the bill. HandyDART riders and workers have long advocated that this service should be brought in-house, citing ongoing poor service quality, safety hazards, bad working conditions, and a lack of public accountability. In 2017, instead of heeding riders’ concerns and insourcing the service, TransLink instead fired the previous contractor and hired a new company, Transdev (formerly known as First Canada).

Who was this new company that TransLink hired to operate HandyDART? The ugly fact of the matter is that Transdev is a multi-billion dollar French corporation with a long history of safety violations, lawsuits, poor performance, and labour disputes.

Health & Safety Violations:

In recent years, Transdev has been fined $382,727 for violations of OSHA’s health and safety code in the US:

  • April 2022 – OSHA announced $145,000 in back wages and damages after a federal whistleblower investigation found the company retaliated against two workers who refused to drive commercial motor vehicles when they felt too sick or fatigued to drive safely.
  • September 2021 – OSHA fined Transdev $5,600 for a workplace accident in San Francisco, CA
  • September 2021 – OSHA fined Transdev $7,000 for blocking a fire exit and failing to provide documentation in Dorchester, MA.
  • February 2021 – OSHA fined Transdev $16,413 for health and safety violations for failing to train workers and conduct regular safety inspections related to use of hazardous chemicals and respirators in Denver, CO.  
  • July 2019 – OSHA announced $188,714 in penalties after citing Transdev for obstructing access to emergency eyewash and shower stations; failing to ensure to label hazardous chemicals; failing to provide training on hazardous chemicals and incipient stage firefighting and fire extinguisher use; and, failing to train and evaluate forklift operators properly. OSHA had previously cited the company for similar violations.
  • November 2018 to March 2019 – OSHA cited Transdev for multiple safety violations in North Las Vegas, NV and issued penalties of over $20,000.

Legal Actions & Contract Violations

  • April 2019Transdev failed to provide Indianapolis, IN paratransit riders with on-time service, incurring significant fines for its “ridiculous” and “unacceptable” performance. The service averaged 68 percent on-time performance in September and 77 percent in October — far below the 90 to 95 percent on-time rate expected by IndyGo. IndyGo started fining Transdev for service deficiencies in 2018. Between July and September, Transdev racked up $178,650 in penalties, including $92,900 for paratransit rides that exceeded two hours, $73,450 for missed trips due to late pickup, and thousands more for low on-time performance, low call answer rates, and high complaint volumes. When the fines did not work, IndyGo notified the company it was withholding $960,307 – its entire September invoice – for its “continuing failure to perform its contractual duties.”
  • December 2018 – Transdev paid $160,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged paratransit employees in Baltimore were not paid in accordance with the city’s Living Wage Ordinance.
  • September 2018 – The City of Baltimore sued Transdev, alleging that the company overbilled the city by $20 million. 

Strikes/Worker Actions

In just the last year, workers at 5 different transit agencies in the United States and Canada under contract with Transdev have gone on strike.

  • March 2024 – Transdev subjected Fairfax County, VA bus riders to a 15-day strike after failing to reach agreement during contract negotiations resulting in no service for the bus system’s 96,000 daily riders.
  • August 2023 – Transdev subjected Visalia County, CA riders to a six-week strike after failing to reach agreement during contract negotiations with Teamsters 517. This strike marked the third in California in just three months. Passengers joined the picket lines: “Uber is not an option for us because we live on a budget and cannot afford to spend that extra $8 to have someone pick us up,” said Cory Janca, a bus rider.
  • August 2023 – Transdev subjected Fraser Valley, British Columbia to a 124-day strike after failing to reach agreement during contract negotiations with CUPE Local 561. The parties didn’t reach an agreement until the province called in a mediator to intervene. The strike was the second longest in the history of British Columbia. One transit rider, Jeffrey James, said the strike had made it “tough” for him to get around. “I’ve basically been walking around, taking cabs,” he said.
  • June 2023 -Transdev subjected Chula Vista, CA Metropolitan Transit System riders to a 5-week strike by failing to make a fair deal with members of Teamster Local 683. 400 workers at the South Bay yard, 20 workers at the Chula Vista yard, and 40 workers at the El Cajon yard went on strike. Settling the contract required the transit system to contribute an additional $1 million to increase wages for workers.
  • April 2023 – Transdev subjected Imperial County, CA paratransit riders to a strike for multiple unfair labor practices, which lasted 37 days. One of the Teamsters members on strike had a message to his clients, Steven Flores said, “My message to them is that just we do apologize for not being able to serve them right now, but hopefully this gets resolved in time in a timely manner and that we’re able to go back out there and serve them the right way that we’ve always done,” Flores said.
  • October 2019 to January 2020 – Transdev subjected Fairfax County, VA bus riders to an 82-day strike after the company took over operations of a privatized WMATA bus garage and refused to compensate its employees in line with the standard of thousands of other bus operators in the region. Throughout the strike, Transdev put untrained and unqualified replacement workers behind the wheel of its buses, which endangered riders, pedestrians, and other vehicles on the road.
  • December 2019 – Transdev subjected Fairfax County, VA bus riders to a 4-day strike due to the company’s bad faith negotiation tactics, which caused an 84% reduction in service. An estimated 30,000 daily riders were affected by canceled or reduced routes.
  • August 2019 – Workers in Arcadia, CA brought cockroach and bedbug infestations to the attention of the Foothill Transit Governing Board, citing Transdev’s failure to address critical safety issues.
  • June 2016 – Some 125 Teamsters Canada bus drivers employed by Transdev went on strike for fair wages in Laval, Quebec putting the Conseil intermunicipal de transport des Laurentides (CIT or Laurentian Intercity Transportation Council) out of service for two days.
  • January 2016 – Drivers from ATU 1433 went on strike for 8-days after Transdev failed to reach agreement during contract negotiations over issues like bathroom access and fair disciplinary policies. Transdev was ultimately assessed $50,000 in damages for failing to provide service to the over 60,000 daily riders.

Unfair Labour Practices

  • Since 2012, Transdev has been charged with 370 Unfair Labor Practices involving 119,297 workers across the United States. These charges include refusing to bargain/bad faith bargaining, coercive actions including surveillance and concerted activities like retaliation, discharge or discipline.