We can't seem to go more than a few hours without a new salvo being fired in the feud between the Chittenden County Transportation Authority and its bus drivers. This morning, the CCTA Board of Commissioners has urged bus drivers to reconsider their decision to reject arbitration as a way to move beyond the contract impasse.
Yesterday, bus drivers — who are threatening to strike on Monday — dismissed pleas from both CCTA and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger to settle their differences with legally binding arbitration.
CCTA's board, which has up until now remained silent in the dispute, is urging drivers to reconsider. CCTA is governed by a 13-member volunteer board. Members are appointed by communities served by the bus lines.
"The CCTA Board supports binding arbitration as a method to bring both parties back to the table and to prevent the disruption of the public transportation services so many Vermonters rely on every day," said CCTA board chairman Tom Buckley of Winooski. "The Union’s refusal of binding arbitration prevents the parties from engaging in a fair and neutral process that would prevent a strike and reach a resolution.”
CCTA said that while the union has publicly threatened to strike, management has not received official confirmation of the those plans. A strike would shut down service on almost all of CCTA's routes — a loss of nearly 10,000 rides a day to work, shopping, school and medical appointments in northeastern and central Vermont.
On Wednesday, drivers voted 54-0 to reject CCTA's most recent contract offer Drivers start at $42,000 a year and can earn upwards of $60,000 with overtime pay. Drivers are not complaining about wages; rather, they are displeased about hours and working conditions, particularly the requirement that they work split shifts. They also fret about CCTA plans to hire part-time drivers, a move the full-timers fear will jeopardize their job security. CCTA says that, since the drivers rejected the agency's most recent offer, the union is now legally obligated to offer a new proposal.
"CCTA’s offer of binding arbitration underscores its strong interest in preserving service for the community. CCTA urges the union to consider more responsible methods to resolve differences," the nonprofit bus agency said. "Whether passengers can continue to rely on vital public transportation services is in the hands of the union."