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CCTA: Prepare for No Buses Monday

Like hundreds of others, Heather Cardinal relies on CCTA buses to get from Burlington to her job in Winooski.
BURLINGTON - Like hundreds of others, Heather Cardinal relies on CCTA buses to get from Burlington to her job in Winooski.

"I take the bus every day, Monday through Friday," Cardinal said. She doesn't know how she'll get to work if the buses don't run.

Her kids take city buses to Burlington schools, which don't provide school buses to all parts of the city, including her home on Shelburne Road.

"Without a city bus they can't go to school, and if they can't go to school that's truancy," she said.

Brandie Sweeney says she won't be able to get to the methadone clinic, where she is trying to beat her drug addiction.

"I turned my whole life around because I had a baby," she said. "If I have to do that all over again I'm going to lose my son, lose my apartment. I'm going to lose everything if I don't have a bus."

The bus drivers' union has been negotiating with CCTA management since last May. Thursday, the bus company warned its passengers that drivers may strike Monday morning.

"All of the routes driven by CCTA drivers will not operate if CCTA drivers are not available to drive them," said Bill Watterson, the General Manager of CCTA. He hopes Saturday's scheduled negotiation will settle all differences.

"It's unfortunate that the drivers seem to be indicating that a work action is going to take place," Watterson said.

If a deal is not made by Monday, passengers will be off the bus and out of luck.

Drivers said wages are not a big concern. Their grievances include a long, tiring split shift that can last over 13 hours, strict rules, and constantly being called in to work even when they have scheduled time off.

"I had vacation planned one time, I planned it a year in advance," said Jim Kerrigan, a union bus driver for CCTA. "Two hours before I got ready to go they called and said you've gotta work tomorrow."

"There are times where if we need someone to cover work, that assignment will have to be covered," said Watterson, acknowledging they do call drivers in when they are scheduled to be off. But he says they never break union collective bargaining agreements.

Two routes are partially driven by non-CCTA drivers. Those would still run if there was a strike. They go from Burlington to Montpelier and Burlington to Waterbury. This is the list of pared-down routes.

The Burlington school district is working on a contingency plan to get students to school Monday. Mayor Miro Weinberger also issued a statement, urging CCTA and the union to come to an agreement, but also warning city residents to come up with alternate transportation plans, just in case.

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