North County Bus Driver Strike Averted
Bus drivers in North San Diego County have reached a tentative deal with their employer to avoid a strike.
First Transit, a contractor that supplies drivers to North County Transit District, announced Thursday morning that it had reached a tentative deal with Teamsters Local 542 for a new three-year agreement. Members will vote on the deal on April 26.
NCTD had alerted customers of a potential service disruption for its BREEZE bus, LIFT paratransit service, and FLEX on-demand service due to the labor dispute. The Coaster train and Sprinter light rail would not have been affected.
The roughly 300 bus drivers were threatening to walk off the job. The union and First Transit had been trying to negotiate a new contract since July.
"We would like to recognize the assistance of the federal mediator, and the work of the bargaining committees for both sides in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement to continue service for NCTD customers," First Transit spokesman Jay Brock said in a statement.
Approximately 25,000 people rely on the bus each weekday. Under the contract with NCTD, in the event of a strike, First Transit would have been required to provide substitute drivers, but it would have taken up to two weeks to get the needed replacements and get them trained.
Efren Zuniga catches the bus in Oceanside every day.
"I use the bus for everything, you name it. Getting around, running my errands, grocery shopping, going to work," Zuniga said.
One of the drivers told 10News she makes $11.25 per hour. She said the drivers can't afford to live on that wage and their schedules make it hard to pick up a second job.
"I think it's great that they're fighting for their rights, but I think it's horrible that we're going to suffer," Zuniga said.
Cincinnati-based First Transit operates in 242 locations in 39 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and four Canadian provinces.