Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA)

VT: CCTA Recommends Binding Arbitration, Union Votes to Strike

In an attempt to avoid a disruption in service, CCTA on March 12 offered to resolve the remaining differences with its Union through a neutral dispute resolution process known as binding arbitration. The Union has not formally responded to that request, but later in the day did vote to strike.

Based on the Union’s public communications, it is unclear when the strike will commence. CCTA is seeking more information from the Union regarding the timing of their planned strike.

CCTA says binding arbitration – a dispute resolution process that allows the parties to present their positions to an independent arbiter who then makes a decision on how best to resolve those differences – is a far better alternative than a strike. Both CCTA and the Union would be legally obligated to accept the decisions of the independent arbiter. The city of Burlington currently resolves all negotiations with its unions through binding arbitration if face to face bargaining does not result in an agreement.”

“We’re disappointed the Union has voted to strike. Disrupting service would impose an extraordinary burden on many Vermonters,” said Bill Watterson, CCTA general manager. “Our most recent offer – which included generous pay increases and flexibility in work rules – was exceedingly fair, reasonable and respectful. CCTA is hopeful the Union will reconsider its decision to strike and agree to binding arbitration.”

Arbitration is a fair and level playing field where each side could state the basis for their positions and let an independent arbiter decide the outcome, Watterson continued. “CCTA always wants to do what’s right for its customers and the communities that rely on us and, in this case, that means finding the best way to get the Union back to the negotiation process and reaching an agreement with our drivers.”

Impacts of a Strike

During a declared driver strike, there will be no CCTA service. Cancelled services include all CCTA local routes and all LINK Express and local commuter trips operated by Union drivers.

There are five Montpelier LINK Express trips and two trips on the Hinesburg Commuter not operated by Union drivers that will continue to operate. 

About the Negotiations

Drivers rejected the March 9 CCTA proposal that was shaped in response to issues raised in negotiations:

Compensation

Wages - CCTA drivers have long received an annual wage increase equal to or greater than the change in the cost of living and CCTA proposed to continue this practice. CCTA’s offer was a 2% increase each year of the three-year contract, which is above the current inflation rate. Additionally, CCTA offered lump sum payments of up to $1,000. CCTA drivers are the second highest paid transit drivers in northern New England. The current base wage for a CCTA driver is $42,494 per year and the offer was to increase this amount to more than $45,000. Total compensation including benefits ranges from $53,893 to $71,535, before the proposed increases.

Additional Compensation – CCTA offered the following additional compensation:

  • $1,250 Annual Cash Bonus for drivers with 15 or more years of service.
  • $300 Annual Cash Bonus for accident-free drivers.
  • $250 vision expense benefit (for expenses such as glasses or contact lenses) in addition to a complete comprehensive health insurance plan.

Work Rules

  • Collaborative Workplace - CCTA proposed a better forum for employee input through the creation of a new Employee Committee to discuss subjects affecting the workplace. Drivers on the committee would also be compensated for attending with two hours pay for each meeting.
  • Repeat Rule Violations - CCTA offered to moderate the consequences resulting from repeat rule violations and to place greater emphasis on giving employees the opportunity to improve performance.
  • Late for Work Drivers - CCTA offered to address late reports to work separately from other more serious personnel matters, like substantiated customer complaints.

CCTA Reaction to Driver Vote

CCTA was disappointed by the rejection of our offer and feels it is important that our passengers and the public understand the issues.

Scheduling and Hours

To provide service when it is most needed by the public, CCTA focuses on peak commuting periods with more buses during busy commuting hours. These early morning and late afternoon peaks in service make split driver work shifts a necessity. In addition, because there are two
separate peaks in service that cannot always be combined into an 8-hour work assignment, use of part-time drivers is an effective means of meeting peak period staffing challenges. This moderate approach proposed by CCTA is commonplace in public transportation operations.

Improvements to full-time driver schedules and working conditions has been a focus of CCTA in negotiations. CCTA accepted a Union proposal to increase the spread time (not working time) of a split shift to 13.5 hours, because it will make it possible for CCTA to have more 40-hour drivers. CCTA also proposed a reduction from 13 to seven part-time driver positions. This moderate approach to use of part-time drivers respects the Union preference for full-time positions while at the same time ensuring that part-time drivers will be a part of effectively addressing the need for more drivers at peak travel times.

Working Conditions

CCTA is committed to operating a safe, affordable and reliable system while providing quality jobs in a respectful work environment. As the region’s public transit provider, CCTA must maintain the ability to ensure public safety and manage risk by providing dynamic supervision and oversight that effectively addresses changing conditions. One of the ways CCTA protects its passengers and employees is by having cameras on-board buses. In addition, CCTA has supervisors who monitor on-time performance and assist passengers and drivers with issues that arise. These are responsible steps taken by CCTA to ensure the safety of our passengers and employees and give additional peace of mind to the parents who rely on our service to get their children to and from school. CCTA maintains its strong safety record, of which we are proud, by using reasonable policies and practices consistent with industry standards and public expectations.

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