After eight months of contract negotiations, and a 15 hour meeting yesterday alone, the Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus drivers have decided to strike. This is according to Tony St. Hilaire, a spokesperson for the Teamsters Local 597 Union, which represents the CCTA bus drivers.
St. Hilaire said, "we need to get the group together before we pick a day."
BURLINGTON, Vt. - It's been eight long months of negotiations and the CCTA drivers say enough is enough.
And if Friday’s negotiations don't go their way, service from Burlington to St. Albans all the way to Montpelier could come to a screeching halt.
Dayna Croteau doesn't own a car. So like many others she relies on the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) to get around.
“I'd pretty much be stuck at home or I’d have to pay somebody to bring me places,” said Croteau.
But when Croteau heard the bus drivers might strike come Friday, she wasn't surprised.
“I see where they are coming from, I really do,” said Croteau.
CCTA and the bus drivers’ union have been negotiating new contracts for more than eight months to no avail. The CCTA management made a final offer to the union at the end of January, but the drivers overwhelmingly turned it down. Now they're prepared to walk.
“No we don't want to go on strike, we know the implications it would cause but we are prepared to do so if we have to do it,” said Rob Slingerland, a CCTA Bus Driver.
Slingerland, a CCTA bus driver, along with other drivers and community supporters rallied together Wednesday to announce their ultimatum.
“We aren't complaining about the money or the benefits- that’s good. It’s the working conditions,” said Slingerland.
Slingerland says their biggest concerns are surveillance and discipline, safety, and part time drivers. He says drivers fight fatigue when they are forced to work split shifts over a 12.5 hour period. A time frame CCTA wants to extend by another hour.
“They'll be working their routes and they'll take a nap in their bus. To add another hour to that it makes no sense,” said Slingerland.
CCTA representatives didn't want to speak on camera about the possibility of a strike but provided a written statement saying they remain focused on four main goals:
- improving quality of full-time driver positions
- clarifying work rules
- improving overall working conditions
- increasing compensation for drivers in comparison to the cost of living
Slingerland says come Friday the ball is in CCTA's court.
“What we want is a fair contract and that’s what we are working for. It’s up to the company; it’s up to CCTA how they want it to go from here,” said Slingerland.
We asked CCTA representatives about what will happen if the drivers’ strike. They told us they will provide specific information to their passengers and the public about the bus service if necessary.