GRTC hoping to put brakes on possible union strike

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – GRTC leaders are hoping to put the brakes on a possible strike. Drivers and mechanics have been working without a contract for three months, and negotiations between the two sides recently broke down. A 3 year contract expired September 30. Since then, neither side has been able to agree to new terms.

There are 40 routes and 40,000 passengers. The fate of those daily trips could be in the hands of the GRTC's 290 union members. They had little to say as they left a meeting today, but we're told, contract negotiations have stalled out and a vote to strike is a now a possibility.

"I hope that doesn't happen. We've done everything we can and we're continuously open to bargaining. But at this point I think we're at an impasse," said John Lewis, GRTC CEO.

Of the GRTC's 492 employees, 426 drivers and mechanics are under contract. The sticking point is salaries. Union members want a raise. Lewis says he has one goal, "that we could do this without layoffs. In order to do that means we had to give some and that was no GRTC employee will receive a salary increase."

The contract talks are making their way to the bus stop, and many of the folks who ride everyday are getting nervous.

Rider Marcella Davis told us a strike would make her nervous. She went on to say, "because it would cause congestion and traffic it would also mean that people would be late to work."

Tony Scott also rides daily and said, "I ride the bus to school the stores or whatever. I get all the way around Richmond on a bus."

But if the worst case happens and the drivers strike, Lewis says the GRTC will still operate.

"It may be in diminished level of service. But every employee, management or not who has a CDL (Commercial Driver's License) will be turning a wheel," said Lewis.

The last time GRTC employees went on strike was 1976. It lasted for 48 days.

Again union leaders declined to comment, but we're told a vote on whether or not to accept a contract could come later this month.

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