Day one of CCTA driver strike - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Day one of CCTA driver strike

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It was a tough day for Burlington resident Chuck Johnson. "Today I had to walk, and today I walked actually from Harbor Place on Shelburne Road, all the way into Burlington so I could get lunch," Johnson said.

After months of failed negotiations, the CCTA bus drivers walked off the job Monday leaving thousands like Johnson, who rely on the buses, wondering how they are going to get around.

Drivers say the strike is not just about money. "We're demanding respect and dignity. The harassment and predatory management -- the ways of management as far as how they treat us while we're on the road, in negotiations, committee meetings -- that kind of thing," said Rob Slingerland, a CCTA bus driver.

Drivers began picketing early Monday morning outside the CCTA garage and on Church Street in Burlington. They were joined by many supporters including Burlington High School students and local union members. 

Drivers say they are being unfairly treated by management by being followed and constantly under video surveillance and by having to work 13.5 hour split shifts. "When we're having to deal with that all day long -- the split shifts, the time off in between -- people are sleeping in their cars and then they're following us for job performance after 12, 13 hours. It's just...it's crazy," Slingerland said.

CCTA says surveillance is important for passenger and driver safety. A split-shift is divided into two parts. CCTA says drivers work anywhere from three to five hours during the morning peak hours, take a break that lasts between five and eight hours, then they are back on the clock for the evening peak hours.

CCTA also says the union proposed the 13.5 hour split-shift when they began negotiations almost a year ago in order to create more full-time, 40-hour work weeks. And while the union says the strike is not about compensation, CCTA begs to differ.

"What is happening at the bargaining table and then the recent comments -- they don't jive at all. The amount of compensation requested by the union, particularly early on in these negotiations was many times more than the rate and increase in cost of living has been," said Bill Watterson, CCTA general manager.

CCTA reports that the drivers starting salary is about $42,000 and that they offered to increase this to more than $45,000 as part of negotiations. "We're very concerned about the impact this has on riders who rely on us to get to work, to get to school, to get to medical appointments and should this really be happening over compensation and cameras on buses," Watterson said.

CCTA says they have been more than willing to sit down with the union through binding arbitration. The drivers say they will strike for as long as it takes for CCTA to offer them a fair contract. 

"I hope the bus drivers get what they're looking for, but I hope they hurry up and get it," Chuck Johnson said.

For now there is no indication on when the strike will end. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger recommends using downtown parking garages and carpooling services offered by Go Vermont as alternate ways to get around.

Related Stories:

City of Burlington offers CCTA rider solutions for bus strike

CCTA's proposed deal rejected by drivers

Understanding the CCTA strike, what it means for riders

Burlington students show support for CCTA drivers

CCTA: No strike Monday, service will be normal

No buses for Burlington students if CCTA drivers strike

CCTA warns strike may stop bus service 

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