LANCASTER – More than 120 drivers working for Antelope Valley Transit Authority, and their joint employer Transdev, went on strike Monday, stranding thousands of local and commuter riders.
“AVTA is anticipating no local service through the remainder of the week at a minimum,” AVTA officials said in a news release.
“Updates on expected commuter and TRANSporter service will be released by 3 p.m. each day for the following day. Riders are encouraged to have alternate transportation plans and to sign up for Rider Alerts to receive the latest updates on all service interruptions,” the AVTA news release states.
The latest strike — the fourth one this year — stems from disagreements between the bus driver’s union [Teamsters Local 848] and Transdev, which contracts with the AVTA.
“The Union has twice rejected a contract that would make the operators some of the highest paid public transit operators in California, with a top rate of $25.45 per hour. The Union’s demands would have severe fiscal impacts, resulting in the elimination of our free-ride programs for veterans, AV College students, and senior citizens,” AVTA officials said in the news release.
The Union maintains that its bus drivers walked off the job Monday “because Transdev continues to break labor laws, known as unfair labor practices (ULP),” according to a news release by Teamsters Local 848.
“This particular ULP strike occurred because Transdev and AVTA locked the drivers out of work for two days after the Union sent an unconditional offer to return to work on behalf of all drivers. The strike has ended again – for now, yet Transdev/AVTA has again chosen to lock out the drivers for two days leaving the door open for another ULP strike,” according to the Union’s news release, which was issued Tuesday afternoon.
“If AVTA is so concerned with students’ ability to get to and from school then why have they locked out the drivers for two days and told them to wait to return to work until Friday?” Eric Tate, Secretary-Treasurer for Teamsters Local 848, stated in the news release.
“AVTA continues to whine that they have not received advance notice of the drivers’ next strike. I know they have very little experience with strikes so here is some free advice for them: ‘You don’t get advance notice of a strike.’ Perhaps Transdev simply doesn’t want to cut into their fat profit margins to make sure their passengers make it to and from their destinations?” Tate added.
The Union addressed AVTA’s claims that bus drivers turned down a contract that reached a top rate of $25.45.
“AVTA has failed to disclose that the top rate isn’t reached until the sixth year of the contract. AVTA has failed to disclose that Santa Clarita and LADOT drivers have their medical insurance paid by the Company, while Transdev/AVTA requires drivers to pay as much as $300 per month. AVTA has failed to disclose that Santa Clarita and LADOT drivers earn employer pension contributions of up to $3 per hour while Transdev/AVTA is proposing just 70 cents per hour by the 6th year of the contract (up from the current 25 cents per hour),” according to the news release by Teamsters Local 848.
AVTA is urging the Teamsters Local 848 to “return to the bargaining table and immediately cease actions that harm our riders and do nothing to advance their cause,” AVTA officials said in the news release.
The bus drivers would like to get back to work, but they want to be compensated fairly, according to their Union.
“All the Transdev/AVTA drivers want is to be compensated fairly, at an equivalent level to other bus drivers in the region. More than six months ago, the Union made an offer to Transdev to accept their economic proposal for the first four years if they would agree to the Union’s proposal, which would allow drivers to reach par with other drivers in the region by the end of the six-year contract. Not only has Transdev/AVTA refused this reasonable request, but the employers have continued to break labor laws in the process, leaving the drivers no choice but to strike – that’s their power, that’s their remedy,” according to the news release by Teamsters Local 848.
AVTA is urging local riders to check avta.com or call its Commuter Hotline at 661-945-9445 for the latest updates on all service interruptions.
UPDATED 8-23-17: Bus drivers will be back on the job in the Antelope Valley Thursday, Aug. 24, and will hold no further strikes until a meeting is held on Sept. 12 to continue contract negotiations, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority announced. Read our latest story here.
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