CCTA bus drivers at odds with employer and their own union
Burlington, Vermont - April 4, 2011
More than 30 bus drivers were in downtown Burlington Monday, not to drive their buses but to protest the latest contract offer from the Chittenden County Transportation Authority. The main argument? A proposed increase in the number of part-time drivers. CCTA says they need the extra help to cover peak periods and say the move will reduce the number of split shifts full-time drivers have to work. But the drivers say the change will cost them money and jobs.
"They only can accommodate for 56 full-time drivers in their bit process. We have 62 full-time drivers on staff, so what happens to the remainder of those full-time drivers?" asked Nathan Bergeron, a CCTA bus driver bargaining committee member.
These bus drivers were just practicing Monday, but they say they will strike if it's absolutely necessary. They don't blame the CCTA; they blame their own union instead.
"The dynamic is there may be a communication challenge between the negotiating team of the union and all of the drivers," CCTA board chair Chapin Spencer said.
The union leadership has twice reached a tentative agreement on the contract with the CCTA board. The drivers rejected the first deal. And the group picketing Monday says they will also reject the latest offer.
Nathan Bergeron: I was on the negotiating committee too, and I wasn't given any information before this went out to the rest of the group to vote on.
Reporter Melinda Davenport: Why not?
Bergeron: We don't know. We don't know. We don't know.
If the deal is rejected, CCTA says it's open to further talks. The drivers have not set a strike deadline. But if a strike does happen, CCTA has yet to set up a plan to deal with what happens to those relying on bus service throughout the city.
"We're working our tail off to get to an agreement because we don't want to see anything that could impact their ability to get to work, to medical appointments, to school," Spencer said.
Duane Messier, the business agent and primary negotiator for CCTA, said Monday that the union's executive board approved the latest contract provisions in mid-March, and presented them to union members on March 13 at the general membership meeting. The drivers are voting on the agreement this week. A final tally will be counted on Sunday.
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