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Fairfax Connector workers authorize strike as contract negotiations continue

Fairfax Connector bus (file photo)

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Hundreds of Fairfax Connector workers could strike if contract talks between their union and employer break down.

Nearly a month after the end of their existing contract with Transdev, which operates Fairfax County’s public bus system, union drivers, mechanics and other employees voted on Dec. 29 to authorize a strike, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 announced yesterday.

As a policy, the union didn’t disclose how many of the approximately 546 Fairfax Connector workers it represents participated in the vote, but 99% of those who did voted in support of authorization, a Local 689 spokesperson told FFXnow.

Despite the recent authorization vote, a strike call doesn’t appear to be imminent, as the union says it has another bargaining session scheduled for Jan. 19.

“For the past three months, Transdev has proven time and time again that they are more interested in hoarding their money than making necessary investments to improve their dedicated and hardworking employees’ wellbeing,” Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said in a statement. “Our members are fed up with Transdev’s flat out refusal to fully engage in meaningful bargaining over key economic issues and attempts to distort facts.”

The workers who support Northern Virginia’s largest public bus system have been negotiating a new labor contract since October, when Local 689 delivered its first proposal to Transdev. The union has said its priorities include pay increases, better sick leave, standard work schedules and retirement security.

Shortly before the existing contract expired on Nov. 30, the union reported progress on some issues, but it said Transdev’s proposed wages still fell short of what workers are seeking.

Now, the union says Transdev “finally presented a decent wage increase proposal,” but the company is pushing the union to drop its demands for “improved dental care and sick leave, retirement security, and more stable working hours.”

(Correction: This article initially said that, according to the union, Transdev had threatened to withdraw its offer of improved sick leave and other benefits in exchange for the wage increases. A union spokesperson clarified that those benefits weren’t offered. Instead, the proposed pay plan was “contingent” on the union dropping its other demands.)

Transdev, which was first hired by the county to operate Fairfax Connector in 2019, says it’s continuing “to bargain in good faith” with ATU Local 689.

“To date, we’ve agreed to over 50 modifications to the prior [collective bargaining agreement] and proposed significant improvements to wages & benefits,” Transdev said in an emailed statement. “We value our partnership with the ATU and remain hopeful that we can come to a mutually-agreeable resolution quickly.”

However, Local 689 claims that many of the contractor’s concessions are either “technical corrections or the bare minimum necessary changes to keep somewhat competitive with other transit entities in the region.”

“A vast divide between the two sides still remains,” the union said.

Serving approximately 26,000 passengers a day on 93 routes, Fairfax Connector is currently operating under the expired contract, which was ratified in early 2020 after workers went on a four-day strike in December 2019 and raised the possibility of a second walkout.

The county’s plan for handling a strike, if the current contract dispute isn’t resolved, aren’t yet clear. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation told FFXnow it “has no comments about a potential strike at the moment.”

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