ORANGE (CNS) - Orange County Transportation Authority drivers for disabled commuters walked off the job today in a contract dispute.
The strike by paratransit drivers, represented by the Teamsters union, comes several months after maintenance workers in the same local called went on a strike in a contract dispute. OCTA officials advised riders to expect significant delays in service and should prepare to make other arrangements for rides.
The agency contracts its OC ACCESS service for disabled riders to a third-party provider, First Transit, which will attempt to cover all trips as required by law, but it may take longer than usual.
``Paratransit riders rely on OC ACCESS to maintain their independence, reach critical medical care, adult day care, educational and employment opportunities,'' said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez. ``We urge the two sides to return to negotiations and bring an end to the tremendous burden our county's most vulnerable population now face.'' First Transit is negotiating a new contract with Teamsters Local 952, which represents the 250 paratransit drivers. The drivers' contract expired at the end of last year and OCTA is not involved in the bargaining, officials said.
The union said it represents 350 members, of which about 260 are drivers for the service. The union issued a statement saying the company's negotiations stalled ``when the company proposed outlandish, non-economic terms, and failed to address key economic issues instead offering substandard wage and pension increases.'' Another issue was adding new opportunities to subcontract some work and the right to schedule 2 1/2-hour unpaid lunch periods, Teamsters officials said. They also claimed there was a proposal for a 50-hour work week, which they said amounted to forced overtime, officials said.