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Buses not running in OC due to maintenance workers strike

About 100,000 bus passengers across Orange County were stranded Thursday after maintenance workers called a strike amid stalled labor negotiations with the Orange County Transportation Authority.

The union representing around 150 mechanics, machinists and service technicians accused OCTA of pulling out of negotiations, while the transport agency said it was offering maintenance workers a contract that would offer wage increases and reduced health care costs.

Without workers to maintain the vehicles, buses running around 50 routes across OC and serving around 100,000 daily passengers remain off the roads, with no comparable alternative for people who depend on public transport.

“We understand how this labor dispute will negatively affect thousands of passengers who depend on the bus system for their transportation needs,” said Eric Jimenez, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 952, the union representing maintenance workers. , in a press release. “We did everything in our power to avoid a strike. They even rejected our proposals that would allow them to save money on members’ health care. But when OCTA left the table on Monday, they gave us no other choice.

OCTA argues that union negotiators did not “walk away” from contract talks, but that the union provided a new proposal on health care on Monday, the last time negotiators met.

“We told them we needed time to review it and come back on Friday to talk to us,” said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

On Wednesday afternoon, Zlotnik said, the union informed the agency that it would go on strike.

OCTA has asked commuters to seek alternative transportation at least until Sunday, given that the union informed OCTA on Wednesday that the strike would last 96 hours, Zlotnik said.

On Thursday, the union called on workers to picket for 24 hours at maintenance yards in Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Irvine.

OCTA and the Teamsters have been in negotiations since May, and a strike was averted in October after Governor Gavin Newsom reached out to both sides and urged them to continue negotiations. But the health care negotiations seemed to continue to be a pivotal point for both sides.

“We reached out to OCTA board members and local political leaders,” Jimenez said. “We honored the Governor’s request to return to the table and continue the talks. We have asked our members to be patient and continue to work with the utmost professionalism without a deal…only to have OCTA continually refuse to negotiate in good faith and disrespect us by walking out of negotiations.

As of Thursday afternoon, there was no indication that the union and the transportation agency were due to meet again to resume talks.

OCTA says it has offered workers a 14.25% wage increase over three years, as well as a 16% increase in health contributions over the same period. The proposal would also include a 26.4% contribution of employee wages to the Orange County Employee Retirement System.

Zlotnik said OCTA contacted the union on Thursday morning with the aim of arranging a meeting on Friday, but had not heard from union officials.

“We are disappointed that the union has called off negotiations and ask that they come back to the table so that we can reach a fair resolution that rewards our maintenance employees for their excellent work,” said the Orange Mayor and President. of OCTA, Mark A. Murphy, in a statement.

Jimenez said the union would resume negotiations, “only if there are significant changes in [the OCTA’s] bargaining position. Otherwise, another meeting would not be productive.

Los Angeles Times

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