CCTA bus drivers ready for strike - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

CCTA bus drivers ready for strike

Burlington, Vermont - April 12, 2011

Chittenden County bus drivers could go on strike at the end of the week, leaving thousands of riders looking for alternate transportation. This strike talk all started after two tentative agreements were rejected by CCTA drivers. Now, with no contingency plan for if and when the strike happens, bus riders feel they are inconvenienced the most.

"I would have no way of bringing my children to school," said Ashley Bonilla, who rides the bus. "I'd also have no way of getting to work every day."

CCTA drivers say they are worried their company is moving to replace full-time drivers with part-timers. CCTA says it's offering more pay and better working conditions, while adding staff to cover peak shifts. But with a strike looming, bus riders might be getting the short end of the stick.

"I think it affects more than just them," Bonilla said.

CCTA bus drivers rejected their latest union contract offer and a last ditch mediation effort is scheduled for Thursday. If an agreement cannot be reached, CCTA says bus riders will be out of luck on Friday.

"Unfortunately, there will be a disruption in service if a strike occurs to the general public and people who rely on the transportation services," said Meredith Birkett of CCTA.

CCTA says it does not have enough non-union drivers with the required commercial driver's licenses to keep the buses running. And it takes weeks to train and certify new drivers.

Odis Berry, a Burlington bus rider with multiple sclerosis, says for passengers like him this could create a huge problem. Riding the bus is one of his only options for getting around town.

"I'm going blind," he said. "So for me, it's necessary for me to get around on the bus, so I don't have a car. It hurts, if you can't get where you've got to go, especially doctors' appointments up at the hospital. So it's going to be really bad if that happens."

Others argue that the bus drivers should fight for agreeable work terms.

"I think it's their right," passenger Neahga Leonard said. "I think it's the right of them, I think it's the right of teachers, I think it's the right of everyone, that needs to make a living wage."

SSTA, the service provided for disabled and special needs Vermonters, will still be running if there's a strike because it is a private contractor that does the driving. The Burlington School District is in the process of notifying their students that bus service will not be operating on Friday if a strike occurs, so parents will have to make alternate arrangements to get their kids to school.

Melinda Davenport - WCAX News

Related Stories:

CCTA drivers reject deal, strike looming

CCTA bus drivers at odds with employer and their own union

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