Media Center

Jul 28

VTA Bus Drivers Overwhelmingly Ratify First Contract

Drivers get first collective bargaining agreement ever with critical wage gains, job protections, and other improvements

Vineyard Haven, MA – With an overwhelming vote by Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus drivers to ratify their contract with their private employer, Transit Connection, Inc. (TCI), the VTA bus drivers have a collective bargaining agreement for the first time ever.

The vote comes three days after the drivers’ union, ATU Local 1548, reached an agreement with private contractor TCI after two days of marathon bargaining, a 28-day strike and a five-year struggle.

“This is a historical day for VTA drivers and a great day for the island,” said VTA driver Richard Townes. “We can now better provide for our families, our jobs are more secure, and we can get back to safely transporting our riders, friends and allies, whose support on the picket lines and year-round was critical in achieving this fair contract.”

Under the new contract, bus drivers won critical wage increases. The highest wage rate increases by 8.5 percent from $23.50 to $25.50 starting August 1, 2019.  The top rate will then increase again on August 1, 2020 to $27.00, with the final increase occurring August 1, 2021, to $27.50.  The starting wage rate for new hires will increase by more than 18 percent from $16.50 to $19.50 on August 1, 2019. The starting wage will then increase to $20 on August 1, 2020, and then increase to $20.50 on August 1, 2021. The previous 13-year completion and 14-step progression to achieve the top rate has been reduced to a 7-year completion and 8-step progression.

In addition, driver seniority will now be recognized when it comes to the selection of work, which will also be more transparent. Drivers will also enjoy job protections for union members. In the event of layoffs at VTA all non-bargaining unit drivers are required to be laid off before any bargaining unit members. Also, their private employer, TCI, is prohibited from subcontracting any work performed by employees represented by the ATU that could result in layoffs.

The new contract comes after a five-year battle between VTA drivers, the VTA Administrator, and TCI, the private contractor. This included a refusal to recognize the union by TCI, union-busting by TCI and the VTA Administrator and supervisors, a federal mediator, a 28-day strike, an absentee VTA Advisory Board, and scab bus drivers.

“We can now put the strike behind us. Our goal now is to work to improve the VTA to provide the safest, most reliable, and most affordable bus service for our community and our island,” Townes continued. “We hope the VTA Administrator and private contractor TCI will work together with us to achieve that goal.”