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Thursday, August 28, 2003



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Handi-Van
adds service but
not yet up to speed


TheHandi-Van will increase service to 60 percent of normal today, up from 15 percent yesterday, but customers going to adult day programs still must find other rides.

"We don't have assurance from the union that they will not put picket lines at Kalihi Shopping Center, causing our operators concern," said Patricia Nielsen, vice president of Oahu Transit Services' TheHandi-Van division.

OTS officials said they were also concerned that maintenance would lag because Handi-Van mechanics were not crossing picket lines at the Middle Street bus facility yard, where Handi-Vans are serviced. Nielsen said mechanics would continue to make trouble calls on the road.

Handi-Van provided between 500 to 600 rides yesterday for kidney dialysis and other medical patients, Nielsen said.

No picket line blocked Handi-Van drivers from getting to work yesterday. Handi-Van drivers belong to the same union as the striking bus drivers, Teamsters Local 996, and work for the same employer, OTS, but are covered by a separate contract.

OTS officials had feared a possible sympathy strike by Handi-Van drivers if unionized bus workers were to picket in front of TheHandi-Van offices at 2295 N. King St.

Handi-Van drivers can legally engage in a sympathy strike.

Some Handi-Van drivers picketed yesterday on their own time outside OTS's Middle Street offices in support of their fellow Teamsters.

Union officials said yesterday no pickets will go up in front of TheHandi-Van offices unless they receive written assurance from OTS that there would be no retaliation for honoring the picket line.

"Threats were made by management they would get disciplined," said Teamsters business representative T.K. Hannemann.

J. Roger Morton, senior vice president for OTS, said no such threats of discipline were made. "We don't do business like that," he said.

Handi-Van service cuts will continue to affect adults who attend day-care programs.

"Families are going to have to find alternative transportation," said David Fray, chief of the state's Development Disabilities Division of the Department of Health.

Most of these adults are severely disabled, either mentally or physically, and their families may not be able to provide transportation if their vehicles are not equipped with wheelchair lifts.

The state is working with providers and case managers to assist families to find transportation, Fray said.

Families can call the case management branch at 733-9175.



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