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Disabled Transportation Society drivers unionize

An idea launched around a kitchen table has grown so big the city is being asked to step in and run the service. The Disabled Transportation Society officially became a charitable organization in the late 70s and today serves over 500 clients in Grande Prairie and the surrounding area.

This past December, the board approached the city to potentially take over the operations of the society. Secretary/Treasurer Karla Jameson says since she joined the DTS board in February 2017 and things had been up in the air after a contract manager was let go. That was when the board, consisting of mostly new members, began to work out a plan and direction for the group.

Jameson says she thinks the staff were feeling that uncertainty as well which is why they decided to unionize and are now a part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“I think they were looking at the fact that we didn’t have a full-time manager and they were feeling like their needs might not get met.”

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The board was unaware of the drivers’ plan to join CUPE when they first approached the city and while those talks are ongoing the Volunteer Services Bureau has been brought in to manage daily operations. They are currently overseeing around 18 drivers, one full-time dispatcher and two others are in the process of being trained.

The city is currently the primary funding source of DTS, along with support from the county, United Way and other fundraisers. Jameson says DTS will definitely be continuing operations but they hope for the city’s help.

“We feel that it would be in the best interest of our drivers and our clients to have the city be running it just like they do the transit. As a volunteer, not-for-profit society it has become greater than what we can handle on our own.”

Jameson expects the demand for the service to continue to grow and they have now expanded to include the seniors facility in Clairmont. While trying to adjust to the new structure they have had prioritize trips to ensure that medical and work trips over social ones but Jameson says their clients will not be without their services.

Assistant Transit Manager Steve Harvard says the city can see the group provides a valuable service to the community.

“As a funding partner of DTS, the City of Grande Prairie is in regular communication with the DTS Board. City Administration continues to consider details of potential transition opportunities.”

There is no official word from the city about when a decision will be made.

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