BURLINGTON, Vt. - The strike is on. CCTA bus drivers walked off the job Monday morning.
The drivers' union voted to reject the most recent contract offer from CCTA. The major grievances are not wages, but working conditions and long, 12.5 hour split shifts.
"When you're on that off time, you're sleeping in your car, it's not really a break," said Rob Slingerland, a CCTA Driver. "You're still tired when you're going on your second shift."
CCTA General Manger Bill Watterson says those shifts are necessary.
"When you have peak service in the morning and the afternoon in order to get commuters to and from work, that lends itself to split shifts in order to have full-time jobs," Watterson said.
Drivers began picketing before sunrise at the CCTA garage and at the Cherry Street bus station. Burlington High School students joined in support around 7:15.
"I've been taking the bus for the past 4 years almost every day, so I definitely rely on the buses to get to school," said Annika Freudenberger, a senior at BHS.
Freudenberger and 60% of her peers in the Burlington School District use CCTA buses to get to class. Dozens of students marched in solidarity with the drivers, leaving at 7:45 a.m. when they normally get on the Cherry St. bus.
The students took their usual bus route but on foot, so they arrived at Burlington High School about half an hour late. The school had late passes waiting for them.
Two weeks ago, the school board voted not to hire Green Mountain transit buses in the case of a strike.
"It will cost a net of $10,000 a week to fund it," said school board Chair Alan Matson. "Additionally, there is a certain amount of support for the drivers." He said if too many students are absent, the board will have to reevaluate that decision. Burlington voters rejected the school budget on Town Meeting Day for being too costly.
CCTA management says they can't do anything to end the strike--it's up to the drivers to make the next move.