Handi-Van management, drivers' union at odds over customer complaint calls

Handi-Van management, drivers' union at odds over customer complaint calls
Published: Mar. 8, 2015 at 7:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The union that represents HandiVan drivers believes disgruntled customers should be able to call the mayor, city manager or Transportation Service Department with their complaints.The management believes otherwise.

The disagreement centers over a small card that the Hawaii Teamsters Local 996 distributed to its drivers to give to their passengers, which includes the phone numbers for the offices of the mayor, city manager and transportation. The drivers started giving out the cards last November, a month after the city changed the HandiVan reservation system, resulting in long waits and irate customers.

"You guys are doing it to us. You're making us wait so long for you," said Kapahulu resident Rose Pou at a heated hearing last November.

"Eventually the customers, the caregivers, family members started really going after our drivers, starting going after our customer service agents," says Local 996 President Ron Kozuma. "Something had to be done."

But Oahu Transit Services, which operates the HandiVan, issued a memo ordering the drivers to stop giving out the cards, and to have passengers call the HandiVan customer service line.

"That's a little bit of a pressure tactic, and I don't think it has any place in our relationship with the union," said OTS President and General Manager Roger Morton.

Morton says he has no problems with customers or even drivers calling the mayor's office with complaints. But he says handing out the cards meant the union was urging people to do that, which the union says it wanted.

"The only way OTS started doing something about the problem was when the mayor got involved, when the Department of Transportation got involved," Kozuma says.

OTS officials acknowledge there have been problems, but it has been working to reduce wait times. They point to 99 new vans along with 25 additional drivers, with another 20 new drivers joining later this year. "And we are meeting our goals to answer 95 percent of the calls within three minutes, and 98 percent of the calls within five minutes," says Morton.

Even with the service improvements, the Teamsters union still wants the drivers to be able to give the cards to passengers, and is considering filing a formal complaint against OTS.

"I have been talking with our attorneys and we're going to see what we can do to more forward with that," Kozuma says.

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