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CCTA Strike Over, Service Returns Friday

Buses from the Chittenden Country Transportation Authority are set to roll Friday after the company’s management and drivers came to an agreement to end an 18-day strike.

A group of jubilant drivers gathered near the bus depot at the intersection of Church Street and Cherry Street in Burlington Thursday afternoon after voting 53-6 in favor of a new contract.

“We had to make compromise,” said Teamsters Local 597 representative Tony St. Hilaire. “There was some stuff that we have heartburn on still, but we got our 12.5 [hour split shifts] and the buses are going to be safe and the drivers are going to be able to service their customers to the best of their ability.”

The “heartburn” St. Hilaire mentioned came on the issue of part-time drivers, which the union opposed.

Under the contract, the split shifts the drivers work must be limited to 12.5 hours, but the company may hire up to 15 part-time workers who may be scheduled to work up to 24 hours a week, but only after all full-time drivers’ hours are filled.

Both shift length and part-time drivers were major sticking points in the final stages of the contract negotiation, which was conducted with the help of a federal mediator.

"We never lost support and we never wavered and we won a historical victory today." - CCTA driver Jim Fouts

 Most of the drivers see the new contract as a victory.

“The community support grew week by week by week,” said driver Jim Fouts. “We never lost support and we never wavered and we won a historical victory today.”

During the third week of the strike amid increasing public pressure to resume service, the CCTA board of commissioners authorized the company to line up temporary drivers and seek legal avenues to end the strike.

On Wednesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Transportation Secretary Brian Searles and others met with both sides to try to bring an end to the strike.

The pressure seemed to work, as both sides met until early Thursday morning, ultimately emerging with the deal that successfully ended the strike.

With the strike over, problems remain. At a meeting of the CCTA board of commissioners Thursday afternoon, drivers presented the board with a petition condemning senior management at the company.

"They fail to recognize the difference between leadership and bullying, blatantly disregarding the valid concerns of drivers and mechanics when it comes to discipline, harsh and prolonged work and forced work shifts jeopardizing our own and the public's safety," it said.

But with the new contract approved, the disputes between drivers and management will no longer leave CCTA's riders stranded.

Alyssa Bucci is a regular CCTA rider who said she was in support of fair working conditions but also thinks highly of the company. Without taking sides, she said the end of the strike was “the best news I’ve heard all week.”

Bucci and the CCTA’s 10,000 daily customers can expect to take the bus on Friday as union drivers return to work.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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