Va. transit workers, Veolia make deal
After months of tense negotiations, a contract agreement was reached late Wednesday between Loudoun County Transit workers and Veolia Transportation, which manages public transportation for Loudoun County and other jurisdictions across the country.
"The agreement is not everything that we wanted or felt we deserved, but it's a decent package," said Sean Cedenio, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 570, which represents 78 bus drivers and mechanics of Loudoun County Transit. "The biggest thing is we retained the progression scale that the company was trying to remove, and we got increases on the progression scale itself."
Dozens of drivers represented by the Teamsters Local 570 in Baltimore marched on their management in Purcellville on Feb. 16, presenting a signed petition demanding a new union contract to replace one that was due to expire Thursday, according to the Teamsters.
Veolia had proposed a flat-rate increase rather than built-in annual raises. Workers had considered a strike as a last resort if their demands were not met, Cedenio said.
In an apparent response to a possible strike, Veolia flew dozens of out-of-state workers into Loudoun County this week and began to train them to assume responsibility for Loudoun County Transit, Cedenio said.
Negotiations between the union and Veolia 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, according to the Teamsters.
In a statement Thursday, Veolia Regional Vice President Steve Shaw thanked the Loudoun community for its patience during the long negotiations.
"Veolia worked hard to present a package that provided our employees with improvements in wages and benefits, provided our riders with safe and reliable service, and provided our client with outstanding value for its money," he said. "We think the vote by our employees accepting the contract shows that we were successful."
Cedenio said the four-year contract was less than ideal, but that the workers were generally satisfied.
"It's not what we wanted, but I definitely feel that the workers did well by banding together," he said. He added that numerous public calls and e-mails in support of the workers also put pressure on the company "to do the right thing."