Orange County Transportation Authority officials Monday warned commuters of a potential bus driver strike next week.
OCTA officials are scheduled to meet with representatives of Teamsters Local 952 on Wednesday. If an agreement is not reached a bus driver strike could start Feb. 15.
“Everyone at OCTA wants to avoid a strike because nobody wins,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, who is also the mayor of Orange. “Any bus service disruption hurts those in our community who can least afford to be hurt at a time when access to transportation is critical. There’s no reason we can’t continue negotiating in good faith and reach a resolution without putting a tremendous burden on OC Bus riders.”
OCTA officials say about 85% of their riders use the bus as the primary means of transportation with more than half getting by with a household income of less than $50,000 a year.
If the drivers hit the picket lines, the public transportation agency plans to ask state officials to intervene with a “cooling-off period,” so negotiations could continue along with service.
Messages left with the local Teamsters leadership were not immediately returned.
OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson said his agency has made a “very generous offer that compensates them for the essential work they perform.”
On Monday, the OCTA board of directors approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the union representing employees in the agency’s operations division which includes a 12% increase in wages over the next 14 months and a $1,000 signing bonus.
The agreement with the Transportation Communications Union/International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers also bumps up salaries 8% immediately and then 4% more by April 1, 2023.
OCTA has met with Teamsters representatives 35 times to negotiate a new contract, which expired April 30, 2021.