The Chittenden County Transportation Authority and its drivers are locked in a bitter standoff, with both sides in disagreement publicly and privately on facts as basic as how long Saturday’s negotiation session lasted.
At a press conference Monday, Rob Slingerland, the spokesman for the drivers, said the CCTA’s release that came after the weekend negotiation session failed was marred with inaccuracies and half-truths.
“We’re rebutting what [CCTA General Manager] Bill Watterson put out on Saturday,” Slingerland said. “When he talks about our team walking out without notification, or just up and walking, that’s not what happened. So we’re here to explain what happened.”
Drivers repeatedly criticized Watterson for what Slingerland called “four years of a downhill spiral of events that led us here feeling the distrust and the predatory management.” Slingerland said management arrived hours late for Saturday’s negotiation session and didn’t counter the drivers’ Thursday proposal with a complete contract proposal.
After a point-by-point rebuttal of CCTA’s release, Slingerland said he wants a resolution, not a public fight.
“The last thing we need to get into is a he-said-she-said kind of situation, and we’re out here trying to state the facts because when the company puts out their press releases such as Saturday, they’re half-truths," he said. "They’re not giving you the whole statement.”
Asked if calling a press conference to rebut a press release amounted to a “he-said-she-said” situation, Slingerland said “Maybe. We’re out here defending ourselves.”
But despite the public drama, neither side indicates that there has been any progress towards ending the strike, now entering its second week.
Mike Walker, the chief steward for the drivers, said the only thing left is to wait.
“Our offer was our last offer,” he said. “And they just can’t come to our terms of our last offer... It’s why the strike is continuing. How many times do we have to sit through 20 and 30 hour discussions with them and continue to get nowhere? So we’re waiting for them to accept our demands."