Two days into their strike, Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus drivers said Tuesday they have prepared a counter-offer for management. But CCTA General Manager Bill Watterson said the company hasn’t seen a written proposal from the drivers.
The strike started Monday and has left thousands of passengers without reliable transportation. And even the union’s supporters hope the labor action ends soon.
Across from the empty bus terminal at the intersection of Church Street and Cherry Street in Burlington, a crowd of about 20 bus drivers and activists was holding up signs and huddling against the cold.
Driver Rob Slingerland said the drivers are ready to come back to the table, but management is holding out.
“We have our offer for them, but they don’t want to meet without the mediator,” Slingerland said.
Watterson said both sides agreed to mediated talks last year and he thinks that remains the most productive solution.
Tony St. Hilaire of Teamsters Local 579, the union representing the drivers, said the union offered to meet on Wednesday, but management decided instead to schedule a meeting Saturday with the mediator.
CCTA’s Watterson also says he hasn’t yet seen any written counter-offer from the drivers, but that management would be open to a serious proposal.
“We welcome anything that offers a path forward because we want to end the strike,” he said, adding that the company’s offer to enter into a binding arbitration process is another potential resolution.
As drivers picketed on Church Street in Burlington Tuesday, Abdillahi Hassan stood with them despite the freezing temperatures.
Hassan has been in the United States for just two years, and says the region’s new Americans are especially harmed by the strike.
“We don’t have a choice,” he said. “We cannot say ‘tomorrow we can get a car’ or ‘tomorrow after tomorrow we can do this,’ because all our kids, and our own work even, depends on the bus.”
Unable to put his children on the bus to school, Hassan said he walked them to their different schools this morning.
“Like today I go on foot [to Burlington High School] and return back [home] and took the other kids to the other school,” he said. “It’s windy, no bus, public transportation.”
But Hassan said he supports the drivers, and that they deserve better treatment in return for the service they provide to the community.
With a 30-minute walk from his house to Burlington High School, he says he hopes the strike ends soon.
The drivers have faced criticism from other regular passengers who say the strike is disproportionately hurting poor and working class families.
All of the picketing drivers on Church Street Tuesday afternoon directed questions to Slingerland, who was acting as their spokesman.
“I don’t know the details at this point,” Slingerland said. “The stewards were working on it last night and I don’t know the changes that have been made, if any.”
With no proposal submitted to CCTA, it’s impossible to know what the counter-offer contains or when the strike may be resolved.