Bus drivers with the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority entered the third day of their strike Sunday as replacement drivers kept operating most of the agency’s routes.
Service was canceled Sunday on four of the VTA’s 15 routes — 2, 10A, 11, and 12, said Vineyard Transit Authority administrator Angie Grant on Sunday. The rest were running normally during the day, Grant said, with six more routes ending earlier than usual Sunday night.
Service should be back to normal by the Fourth of July holiday Thursday with either regular employees if the strike ends, or with trained substitutes, Grant said.
The strike comes four years into a labor dispute with Transit Connection Inc., a Florida-based contractor for the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority.
Steve MacDougall, an international representative for the Amalgamated Transit Union, said on Sunday that drivers want recognition of seniority, higher wages, and more flexibility for full-time, year-round employees who want to choose the hours they prefer.
The top-paid drivers now make $23.50 an hour, he said, and most make less.
“It’s impossible to live on this island making $17 an hour,” MacDougall said. “They’re not looking to run anybody out of business who’s trying to run a bus company, but wages and job security need to be commensurate with the circumstances that we allow our fellow citizens to live here.”
The owner of Transit Connection Inc. could not be reached Sunday.
The two sides plan to talk again on Monday with a federal mediator, both Grant and MacDougall said Sunday.
In a statement on Thursday, the day before the strike began, Grant said the agency hoped that when the two parties meet again, “the union puts the best interests on all bargaining unit members and our community in front of their own agenda, and an affordable option is agreed upon.”
If the company and the union reach a deal, it would be the agency’s first union contract, MacDougall said. The drivers had voted to unionize in the past, but dissolved the union before ultimately deciding to unionize again recently, he said.
Between 45 and 50 people are in the union, which solely represents the agency’s bus drivers, MacDougall said.