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CCTA's proposed deal rejected by drivers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

CCTA's proposed deal rejected by drivers

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The Chittenden County Transit Authority was rejected by drivers. It was a last ditch effort to avoid a strike, which is now set for Monday.

"I don't know. I don't know how I'm going to get to work without the bus," said Tracy Houle, a CCTA bus rider.

Houle relies on the bus to get to and from work, but she and other passengers worry their bus drivers may walk off the job.

"This is very useful. Keep them running," said Brian Leary, another CCTA bus rider.

Drivers have rejected the CCTA's latest proposal after failed negotiations last week.

The union did not respond to our request for an on camera interview, but in a press release they said that the contract CCTA proposed was unfair. The union says it wants to avoid driver fatigue and wants more full-time work for drivers, saying: "People can't make ends meet with part-time labor. The drivers can't live under the terms of management's last proposal. That's why it was voted down in such a big way."

CCTA has made one last effort to avoid a strike proposing binding arbitration. An outside negotiator would be brought in to hammer out a deal and drivers would stay on the job.

"For CCTA, we believe that this is a way to avoid a negative disruption for many Vermonters that rely on our services to get to and from work, to get to and from medical appointments. So we believe this is a way to avoid a strike," said Bill Watterson, CCTA general manager.

Late Thursday afternoon, drivers rejected the binding arbitration proposal, but officials say working hours, the sticking point, has already been addressed.

"The idea was to create more flexibility in scheduling drivers so that we could have more full time 40-hour work assignments. This is something that's all about being able to schedule work rather than have the work be unscheduled and have drivers that are short on their full time hours," said Watterson.

CCTA says around 9,700 passengers use its services on an average day and more than 700 of those are students who rely on the buses to get to and from school.

Drivers could strike as early as Monday, leaving folks like Houle stranded.

"I'm hoping that they work it out for sure," said Houle.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger sent a press release pleading with both parties to do everything they could to avoid an interruption in service. He had hoped the union would agree to binding arbitration, but the drivers are still set to strike Monday. CCTA says this will leave the thousands of people who rely on its service out in the cold.

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