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Posted at 2:06 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Transit workers seek new contract

By Caitlin Gibson

Reports Thursday of a possible strike among disgruntled Loudoun County Transit drivers were premature, according to Teamsters Local 570 in Baltimore, which represents 78 bus drivers and mechanics of Loudoun County Transit.

Officials with the union and the company that operates Loudoun County Transit said negotiations are ongoing.

Dozens of drivers represented by the Teamsters marched on their management in Purcellville Wednesday, presenting a signed petition demanding a new union contract to replace one that expires March 3, according to the Teamsters. The contract was extended in 2009, the Teamsters said.

"It is our job to try to negotiate a deal with the company that is fair to both sides. The last thing that anybody wants is a strike. We do not want to inconvenience the riding public, and we want to be sure that we act responsibly," said Sean Cedenio, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 570. "At the same time, what's on the table from the company is unacceptable."

Negotiations stalled in December 2009, and federal mediators were called in to assist both parties in agreeing to an extension so that service would continue without interruption, Cedenio said. Drivers are asking for a return to their 2009 pay scale with moderate increases, he said.

Loudoun County transit services are operated by Veolia Transportation, which manages public transportation for jurisdictions across the country.

Veolia's contract with Loudoun County has raises built in every year. Veolia is proposing a flat-rate increase instead, Cedenio said, which would mean that it would take workers seven or eight years to reach a top rate of pay, rather than four years.

If the employees demands are not met, Cedenio said, a strike would be considered as a last resort.

"We want to negotiate as much as we can," he said. "If a strike becomes necessary, it will be a decision of the employees, but we will support the employees 100 percent in whatever they choose to do."

Valerie Michael, a spokesman for Veolia, said that the company has engaged a federal mediator to assist with contract negotiations.

"We are very hopeful that an agreement will be reached," she said. "Both sides are working, we're working very diligently. Our goal is to get an agreement that's fair to everybody, and that includes the passengers and the clients as well as the employees and the company."

By Caitlin Gibson  | February 17, 2011; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Northern Virginia, Transit  
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