New details Monday night on the strike by Chittenden County bus drivers that's now entering week three.
The CCTA board voted to explore the idea of hiring temporary drivers to get people where they need to go. The board chair says they need to get buses rolling again as 10,000 riders are being left stranded every day. And if union drivers won't work they may turn to others who will.
"The board is very committed to ending this strike. We've heard a lot from our riders, we've heard a lot from bus drivers and the public about the pain being inflicted by this strike," said CCTA Board Chair Tom Buckley.
Buckley says the top priority for his board is getting the buses running. The union drivers remain at odds with CCTA management, and despite 17 hours of negations Friday, the strike continues.
People spoke out Monday at a charged special CCTA Board meeting. The main sticking points holding up negotiations now are split shifts and compensation. The current base wage for a CCTA driver is more than $42,000 a year.
"Our current contract allows us thirteen part-time positions but the work rules are so restrictive that we're not able to attract people to those positions therefore were not able to cover the work that needs to be covered," said CCTA General Manager Bill Watterson.
Monday night, the CCTA Board passed a resolution to look at several ways to get buses back in service. The vote gives CCTA staff the OK to explore hiring temporary drivers.
"It will just allow us to have service during the time that the negotiations are still ongoing. They would be temporary replacements, obviously. Once the negotiations reach an end we would send them on their way," Buckley said.
The board is also considering looking at legal actions that could force an end to the strike. But Buckley says they hope it doesn't come to either option.
"The best thing would be to come back to the table and get an agreement where the drivers would go back to work. That's still our number one goal," Buckley said.
Buckley hopes to have details on what it will cost to hire temporary drivers in time for CCTA's meeting on Thursday. Earlier Monday evening, the union voted down management's most recent proposal, and then submitted their own counterproposal to CCTA.
Drivers' union spokesman Tony St. Hilare tells WCAX News another round of talks with CCTA is scheduled for Wednesday. CCTA has not confirmed that.