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UPDATED: Fairfax Connector strike ends as union members approve new contract

Fairfax Connector workers represented by ATU Local 689 strike outside the West Ox Bus Facility (staff photo by James Jarvis)

Updated at 9:45 p.m. on 3/6/2024Fairfax Connector workers with ATU Local 689 voted today (Wednesday) to ratify a new contract with bus operator Transdev, ending a 15-day strike, the union announced.

The bus system will officially resume service on Friday (March 8), according to Transdev and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

“Our management teams and staff have been preparing to restore full bus service as soon as possible after approval of the new contract,” FCDOT said. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our passengers during this challenging time and look forward to welcoming them back on board.”

Earlier: An end to the strike that has kept Fairfax Connector buses on ice for nearly two weeks may be near.

ATU Local 689, the union representing more than 600 bus drivers and mechanics who run Fairfax County’s public bus service, have reached a “tentative” contract agreement with Transdev, the contractor that operates the service, the union announced tonight (Tuesday).

The news came just two hours after the Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced at 6 p.m. that service would be suspended tomorrow (Wednesday) for a 14th consecutive day.

According to an ATU spokesperson, the strike remains in effect, but union members won’t be picketing. Instead, they will vote on whether to ratify the new contract, which will set standards for pay, benefits and working conditions and replace one that expired on Nov. 30.

“If it passes, they could return to work as soon as Thursday,” ATU Local 689 spokesperson Ben Lynn said.

Fairfax Connector workers have been striking since Feb. 22, when the union called for a work stoppage, saying it remained far apart from Trandev in what they were seeking from a new contract, even after 12 bargaining sessions.

While details of the potential agreement aren’t currently available, Local 689 says it secured “major transformative improvements…that would guarantee retirement security for members, include competitive wages for bus operators and mechanics, and enhance the 40-hour guarantee,” among other priorities.

Transdev confirmed that it had reached “a mutually agreeable, tentative agreement.”

“The next step will be for the ATU 689 membership to vote on ratifying the contract tomorrow,” a Transdev spokesperson said. “We will immediately prioritize restoring full service as soon as possible.”

Fairfax Connector service has been suspended throughout the strike, disrupting travel for the approximately 26,000 passengers who ride its buses daily.

FCDOT encouraged riders to utilize alternatives such as teleworking, carpooling, walking, bicycling, Metro and Virginia Railway Express (VRE), though many commuters resorted to ride-sharing services. Starting last Friday (March 1 ), the county offered free Capital Bikeshare rides.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a newsletter that participants in the Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP), which provides half-price fares to low-income riders, got “a supplemental one-time credit in their accounts that they can use for alternative transportation during the strike.”

Though initially criticized by the union for not taking a more vocal stance on the contract dispute, McKay got involved last week when he sent a letter to a federal mediator on Feb. 28, asking her to move up talks between Transdev and ATU that previously weren’t scheduled to resume until March 5.

In a statement, McKay said county leaders are “pleased” by the news of a tentative agreement, signaling that Fairfax Connector service could resume soon.

“The mutually agreeable solution that resulted from this effort not only respects the exemplary work of the system’s drivers and mechanics but ensures that we are moving forward in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner that benefits our residents,” McKay said.

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