When a striking MetroAccess driver showed up to meet with Transdev negotiators Tuesday morning, he was optimistic.
“I thought there would be a different proposal put on the table, maybe a little increase,” said that driver, Tim Hollingsworth of ATU Local 689. “But it was the same thing as prior.”
It was an offer that he said they’ve rejected multiple times already: “The exact same thing.”
And for him and others who gathered along Hubbard Road in the Glenarden area of Prince George’s County, Maryland — outside the office where they normally show up for work — that wasn’t good enough. Tuesday’s meeting didn’t last very long.
“I couldn’t have been in there about maybe 10, 15 minutes at most, if it was that long,” he said.
Currently, the next negotiation between Transdev and ATU Local 689 isn’t scheduled until next Tuesday, though union leaders said they’re willing to meet at any time between now and then. The strike involves over 100 drivers of MetroAccess vans, which provide transportation around the region to elderly residents and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
MetroAccess is still operating under its regular schedule, Metro said.
“We deserve better pay,” said Valerie Thomas, one of the union’s shop stewards. They’re also asking for better health and retirement benefits.
“We were here on the front lines during the whole pandemic. We didn’t even get hazardous pay,” she said. “We took risks just like everyone else and not to be compensated for it? We think that it is wrong.”
She also slammed the latest offer from Transdev, saying the company isn’t bargaining in good faith, and vowed to continuing striking until that changes.
“Transdev this entire time has been wasting our time at the table, bargaining in bad faith, not actually putting forward serious proposals,” said Brian Wivell, a spokesman for ATU Local 689.
“They’re proposing a one-year contract, which is completely out of sync with every contract in the region, which are largely three years,” he added. “The contract they’re (Transdev) proposing would pay these workers who live in the D.C. region less than what they’re already paying as a starting salary for workers in Baltimore.”
“It’s absolutely an insulting, low-ball offer and clearly shows that they’re not serious about dealing with their worker shortage,” said Wivell.
A Transdev spokeswoman said in a statement, “We are continuing our discussions and hope to come to a resolution very soon.”
Transdev is one of four companies to which WMATA contracts out MetroAccess transportation.
In a statement, Metro said, “We continue to monitor the ongoing labor negotiations between Transdev — a private company — and its employees and union representatives. MetroAccess continues to serve customers under its regular schedule.”
The union, Wivell said, is also willing to sit down directly with Metro, and said the transit agency bears responsibility for the strike, too.
“They could fix this issue in a heartbeat if they wanted to,” he said. “We know our demands are reasonable. We know our demands are fair. We know what our workers need to survive in this region, and if Trandev doesn’t want a fair contract, they shouldn’t be in this business.”
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