Fairfax Connector bus service remains suspended following Sunday negotiations, union says workers have lost healthcare

More than 600 Fairfax Connector bus operators and mechanics are now in day 11 of a strike against public transportation operator Transdev, which operates the bus system.

The union representing the workers, ATU Local 698, met with Transdev on Sunday afternoon to negotiate a new contract. Bus service remains suspended through Monday, March 4, as the strike continues.

Benjamin Lynn, spokesperson for ATU Local 689, told WTOP both sides are expecting to meet again on Tuesday, March 5, after resolution remained out of reach during Sunday’s talks “on key economic issues.”

“Transdev has continued to repeat an outlandish and inflated dollar amount for the compensation package offered to workers without providing the Union with the complete financial data and calculations,” according to Lynn. He said “Transdev must be relying on Voodoo math.”

Before Sunday’s talks, Lynn told WTOP that part of the reason for what he called “minimal progress” between the two sides stemmed from Transdev not coming “to the bargaining table the two times we have sat down with serious and sincere attempt to reach a deal.”

ATU Local 689 said employees have been working under an expired contract since last year, and they have been trying to negotiate a deal for higher pay, more sick leave and retirement security.

Last week, transportation union leaders met with Transdev on Feb. 26, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal, leading to the continuation of the strike.

Some of the highest priority items for the union, according to Lynn, are retirement security and savings for members. The union also wants to boost the number of sick days that workers receive, as well as improve wages for maintenance workers and mechanics to ensure they’re competitive with other transit areas in the D.C. region.

Striking members are given a small weekly compensation while the strike is ongoing, Lynn said.

He said that the union is “prepared to stand with the Fairfax Connector workers, our members, as long as it takes to get a fair contract.”

Before Sunday’s meeting, Lynn told WTOP “the union’s getting a sense that the company is interested in reaching a deal to get the buses back on the road,” but no progress was made in those talks.

‘A heinous move’ to cut healthcare

Sunday’s negotiations came after Lynn said Transdev informed the union on Feb. 29 that it would be cutting off health insurance for the workers on strike, effective March 1.

“This is really a heinous move by the company, especially to intentionally give such late notice,” Lynn said. “We see it as a retaliatory effort to try to intimidate the workers.”

He explained that a lot of workers will be negatively and acutely impacted by this cut, particularly members who require cancer treatment, or any regular medical treatment for ailments like diabetes or high blood pressure.

“We actually have one of our members … whose son is about to start going through chemo,” Lynn said. “But everything’s on pause now because of the decision by the company to cut off the health insurance coverage.”

Editor’s note: WTOP has reached out to a Transdev spokeswoman for comment.

WTOP’s Matt Small, Thomas Robertson and Jenna Romaine contributed to this report.

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Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

Grace Newton

Grace Newton is an Associate Producer at WTOP. She also works as an associate producer for NPR Newscast. Grace was born and raised in North Carolina but has lived in D.C. since 2018. Grace graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in art history in 2022.

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