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Latest News - April 2011

April 4, 2011
CCTA drivers urge own union to re-negotiate
Source: BurlingtonFreePress.com
By: Joel Banner

Joel Banner Baird: Would wages drive CCTA drivers to strike? Unlikely

About 35 bus drivers picketed Monday in Burlington to protest working conditions proposed by their union to the Chittenden County Transportation Authority.

Many of the placards on display advocated a drivers’ strike unless negotiators limit part-time workers, maintain 40-hour weeks for full-timers and reduce disciplinary probation periods.

The noon-hour picket line at Church and Cherry streets, which included more than a dozen non-drivers, was not sanctioned by the union, said Duane Messier, the Teamsters’ South Barre-based business agent and primary negotiator with CCTA.

None of the posters, however, alluded to the growing in-house friction between union leaders and its rank and file. Nathan Bergeron, one of three drivers serving on the negotiating committee, said the recent tentative agreement between Teamsters Local 597 and CCTA was reached without input from drivers.

“We’re telling our negotiating team, ‘You’ve got to sit back down at the table,’” he said.

A proposed increase in part-time drivers might help soften the impact of split shifts for full-timers, Bergeron said, but would also erode the latter group’s earnings. Drivers are busiest in the mornings and evenings.

A statement released Friday by CCTA lawyer Joe McNeil cites union, part-time drivers as “the only viable and sustainable solution” to relieve pressure on full-timers. No full-time driver would be laid off in order to hire a part-time driver, he wrote.

Who’s in charge?

The most recent proposed agreement came directly from Messier — the only legally designated union representative, McNeil said.

Messier confirmed McNeil’s account of events, adding that the union’s executive board approved the contract provisions and presented them to union members at the March 13 general membership meeting.

March 14, Messier offered the agreement to CCTA — which approved it several days later. About 64 full- and part-time drivers are voting on the agreement this week; a final tally will be counted Sunday.

Drivers at the picket said the deal dismayed them. Driver James Fouts, an organizer of Monday’s event, predicted overwhelming opposition from the drivers. A deal reached in October between union leaders and the CCTA was voted down 36-1 by drivers.

“We’re doing this today to help inform the public, and to show the company that we’re not playing around; that we’re dead serious,” he said. “We were left out of the process.”

Unilateral?

Leaflets distributed at Monday’s protest encouraged Chittenden County residents to pressure local CCTA board commissioners to “return to the table and settle the contract.”

In a statement released Thursday, Fouts quoted driver and negotiating team member Mike Walker as saying that employees should seek “a negotiated agreement with CCTA management, rather than having a unilateral ‘last offer’ forced on us.”

Monday, Walker clarified his statement: The Teamsters union, working with CCTA, had collectively presented drivers with a unilateral offer, he said.

That offer arose from a legally mandated, post-mediation fact-finding report, written by Delmar, N.Y.-based fact-finder Ira Lobel. The report includes earlier union demands — demands that were later dropped.

The most recent proposed agreement keeps most of the guidelines for weekly work hours intact, and makes only “very minor language changes” to how disciplinary issues are managed, CCTA acting General Manager Meredith Birkett said.

A copy of the fact-finder’s report that informed the current tentative agreement between the driver’s union and the CCTA can be read online: www.cctaride.org/news/labor.html.

 

 


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