Drivers End Two-Week Strike; Contract Negotiations Continue
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) _ Orange County bus drivers, threatened with firing in the midst of the holiday season, returned to their jobs today while negotiators try to work out a contract, officials said.
The Orange County Transit District began operating today on its regular schedule 14 days after most of the district’s 732 drivers walked out, affecting about 110,000 commuters, said spokeswoman Joanne Curran.
Less than 10 of the 314 drivers scheduled to work this morning called in sick or failed to show up, she said.
Elsewhere, no talks were scheduled in Columbus, Ohio, where a transit strike entered its 14th day today.
The Orange County district announced last week that any drivers who did not report for work today would be fired. Limited service was provided on 12 to 15 of the district’s 53 routes during the strike.
United Transportation Union Local 19 chairwoman Juliene Smith said she recommended that the 696 striking drivers return to work to avoid dissension within the union. Some members had crossed the picket line to keep their jobs through Christmas, she said.
Thirty-six drivers had returned to work by Friday, said district spokeswoman Claudia Keith.
The latest negotiations broke down Thursday.
Drivers will continue to protest the district’s final offer of a 7.5 percent pay raise, she said. The union has asked for a 13 percent pay raise over the length of the proposed 3 1/2 -year contract. The current top wage for drivers is $13 per hour.
Pending agreement on a contract, drivers will continue to operate under the previous wage terms, but new district proposals dealing with attendance and drug testing will be enforced, Ms. Curran said.
The district also unilaterally implemented new rules doubling the permissible percentage of part-time drivers, contracting out more work to private companies and requiring drivers to be treated by district-approved clinics rather than private physicians.
In Columbus, 630 bus drivers and mechanics remained off the job in a strike against the Central Ohio Transit Authority that started Dec. 9 and forced about 90,000 people to find other means of transportation.
No talks were scheduled between negotiators for the transit authority and Transport Workers Union Local 208.
Both the union and the company have accused each other of refusing to negotiate the issues, which include use of part-time help and subcontractors, as well as wages. Top scale for drivers is $12.31 an hour. The top hourly rate for mechanics is $13.33.