The deal had been expected. The two sides announcemed earlier this month that they had reached a deal amid a contentious labor fight between the union and a Metro contractor that operates a Metrobus garage in Lorton. Nearly 130 workers at the garage on Cinder Bed Road have been on strike since Oct. 24, protesting a lack of raises, high-deductible health coverage and a retirement package that doesn’t match what most Metrobus employees are given.
The garage, a Metrobus outpost where 18 routes are based, is the only part of Metro’s main rail and bus transit services that is outsourced, and the union wanted to bring attention to workers’ demands as well as the contracting out of public transit services such as operations for the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport.
The new agreement includes Metro’s pledge to eventually end the outsourcing of operations at the Cinder Bed Road garage. How and when it will do so has not been publicly stated. Metro’s contract with Transdev, a French multinational transit operator, lasts until 2021, union officials said.
In the short term, nothing in the agreement helps striking workers who are going on two months out of work — or the 8,500 riders on an average weekday who rely on the routes they service, nearly all of which have been canceled or limited since the strike began.
“While this deal will help prevent future labor disputes, like the almost 60 day long Cinder Bed Bus strike, it does not immediately end the ongoing strike,” ATU Local 689 said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Transdev has not met our simple demands for written guarantees that the company will not retaliate and a commitment to good faith bargaining.”
“Transdev and ATU 689 continue to bargain in good faith,” said Transdev spokeswoman Mitun Seguin. “Negotiations are continuing and it is true that the next available date when all parties are available is in January. We have formally communicated in writing to the union over a week ago that we welcome the drivers back with no repercussions for striking while we continue to negotiate. We want to make it absolutely clear that employees can come back to work now or at any time without any issue.”
Union officials said the company has postponed talks until Jan. 14.
“This is completely unacceptable,” the union said in its statement. “Not only is this company trying to starve its workers during the holidays, but it shows no remorse for stranding passengers an additional 25 days without buses.”
Winston Nichols, one of the striking operators, said the company’s lack of urgency should prompt Metro to intervene for the sake of its riders.
“Our push now is to get Metro to bring [the Cinder Bed Road garage operations] in sooner,” he said. “If they bring it in sooner, we can have the routes running the day after. It’s like Transdev has no interest in getting a deal done.”
The union once again called on Metro to end the strike by canceling Transdev’s contract, but the transit authority has repeatedly declined to step in, saying it has no legal standing in a labor contract dispute that involves its contractor.
Metro for the first time released new details about the contract extension, which affects Metrobus and Metrorail operators and workers who report directly to the transit authority. It includes a 2.4 percent annual average wage increase for ATU Local 689 employees and provides workers with an additional 1 percent wage increase each year in years Metro’s ridership grows by 2 percent or more from the previous year.
Metro said its current pension program will remain the same and will also be extended to new employees.