Green Mountain Transit, rural drivers conform to new contract

A Green Mountain Transit bus leaves the Downtown Transit Center in Burlington on Friday, July 26, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Green Mountain Transit has reached a tentative settlement with the bargaining unit that represents its rural drivers in central and northwest Vermont, the corporate mentioned, bringing an finish to a yr of negotiations and all however actually averting a deliberate strike. 

Drivers ratified the settlement over two votes Sunday and Tuesday after the corporate and the union, Teamsters Local 597, got here to phrases March 4, in line with Teamsters recording secretary Curtis Clough, who’s been concerned in negotiations.

The contract nonetheless must be accepted by Green Mountain Transit’s board of commissioners. The firm mentioned in a press release it expects that can occur on the board’s subsequent assembly on March 15.

“I think it’s a very fair agreement,” mentioned John Moore, the corporate’s normal supervisor. “It rewards our existing employees who have been essential staff throughout the pandemic and before that, making sure people can get to where they need to go.”

Green Mountain Transit’s rural unit consists of about 30 drivers protecting Barre, Montpelier and Northfield, in addition to St. Albans, Richford, Enosburg and Milton.

The rural drivers voted in late January to strike beginning this Friday if an settlement was not reached by Thursday.

WCAX reported final month that indicators had been posted on the Montpelier Transit Center notifying riders that service may cease there on Friday.

Clough mentioned the union doesn’t intend to strike as soon as Green Mountain Transit’s board approves the brand new settlement. The contract can be in impact by June 2024. 

A key problem all through the negotiations, Clough mentioned, was whether or not the corporate would supply its rural drivers medical insurance advantages that had been extra consistent with the advantages it gives to its city drivers, who cowl routes in Chittenden County.

Contracts for the city drivers’ unit, in addition to Green Mountain Transit’s upkeep unit, had been each settled final fall.

Maintenance staff are accountable for snow removing, sanitizing firm amenities and gear, and repairing buses, amongst different duties.

The rural drivers’ new settlement stipulates that the corporate will cowl the complete value of a one-person medical insurance plan, in addition to between 75% and 85% of the distinction between a one-person plan and a multi-person or a household plan.

The union had proposed that Green Mountain Transit cowl the complete value of all varieties of plans for rural drivers — because it already does for city drivers.

In impact, the union was in search of to alter an settlement reached in 2018 throughout negotiations for the agricultural drivers’ earlier contract, wherein the union gave up extra complete medical insurance advantages in trade for larger wages. 

That contract expired in June 2021.

As a part of the negotiating course of for the brand new contract — which had included about 15 daylong periods beginning final March — an unbiased factfinder printed a report detailing suggestions for greater than a dozen unresolved points. 

The factfinder didn’t help the union’s proposal for protection of all medical insurance plans, stating that any choice ought to be left to the negotiating events themselves. 

Clough mentioned the union was “pretty happy” with the brand new contract, noting it made progress in some areas that had been necessary to the drivers.

“This is a contract that’s going to provide stability for our members and provide them the ability to afford insurance for their family, which was the primary goal,” he mentioned.

The rural drivers’ new contract additionally consists of elevated wages and bonuses, together with a wage after three months that’s $26 per hour, an $8 hourly enhance from the earlier contract, Clough mentioned. Drivers begin out making $21.75 an hour.

Clough mentioned Green Mountain Transit has a excessive turnover charge in drivers’ first years, and the union and firm are hoping this might assist preserve staff round.

The new contract additionally consists of provisions that the union hopes will cut back the quantity of pressured time beyond regulation drivers work, Clough mentioned — one other effort to restrict turnover.

Moore, the overall supervisor, mentioned Green Mountain Transit has struggled to fill positions throughout the pandemic, each for driving its buses and sustaining them.

“That’s been an area that we looked at through the negotiations,” he mentioned, “to make sure that we had a competitive wage and compensation package to not only recruit new employees, but also retain existing employees.”

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