“RATP Dev left us no choice but to leave the job,” said Raymond Jackson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents more than 150 Circulator drivers. “We encourage commuters to seek other forms of public transportation throughout the city.”
The workers intend to strike until an agreement is reached, the union said.
RATP Dev and the union have been negotiating a new contract since March and approved a 30-day contract extension that expired on Saturday. Labor leaders said the company has not responded to workers’ demands for better working conditions and wages.
On Friday, the RATP Dev said in a statement that a strike or strike could “result in the loss of transit services.” After receiving word from the union on Monday about the plan to strike, the company called the action “disappointing” and said it intends to “continue negotiating in good faith” when talks resume on Wednesday.
RATP Dev said it has offered a contract that includes increases to 401 (k) matches, adds an additional medical plan, makes Juneteenth a paid vacation and includes “better salaries.” But ATU Local 689 said in a statement that the company’s offer “failed to adequately address years of underpayment and inflation” and “threatened to replace our members with subcontractors, eliminated workers’ federal rights under the Family & Medical Leave Act and proposed to undermine the concept of progressive discipline. “
Circulator drivers and the union have been lobbying the city for years to get the Circulator System in house and remove the contractor system, which they say has resulted in fewer benefits and lower wages. Circulator drivers have historically been among the lowest paid public transportation operators in the Washington region, a pay gap that creates revenue and an inequality that worries labor and religious leaders who push for equality.
Last week, ATU Local 689 said the company had “repeatedly insulted our members with rogue lowball offers,” including raising the top salary by 6 percent over three years. The most experienced Circulator drivers are paid less than Metrobus drivers, the union said, adding that the wages of its workers are also out of sync with other local transit agencies.
“This company will only realize the true value of its workforce when they do not show up to work,” Jackson said. “RATP Dev cannot run these buses.”
DDOT warned Friday that a potential strike would “severely limit and / or disrupt” bus operations. Circulation routes – which carried 5 million passengers annually before the pandemic – connect communities across the city to downtown and other destinations, such as Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Eastern Market and Wharf.
Brian Wivell, a spokesman for ATU Local 689, said the union expects “a major impact on operations” on Tuesday, adding that the company already had a shortage of staff.