New I-66 commuter bus

An OmniRide bus

Prince William County commuters who rely on the OmniRide bus service should see normal routes resume as soon as Tuesday morning, thanks to a new agreement the bus drivers' union reached Monday with contractor First Transit.

That’s according to Robert Hollingsworth, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 2776, Council 20, the union that began representing about 120 local bus drivers within the past year.

The agreement still needs to be approved by AFSCME union members, but Hollingsworth called that “very likely” Monday night. 

“The citizens of Prince William County will see their service resume tomorrow,” Hollingsworth said, adding: “The bus drivers really enjoy what they do and they are proud of it. There were just some things that needed to be addressed.”

Hollingsworth declined to go into detail about exactly what led to the partial work stoppage – or strike – last week. OmniRide commuter bus service went on a modified version of its emergency service plan last Thursday, Aug. 1, to cope with a driver shortage.

Safety and “respect and dignity” shown to drivers were among the outstanding issues as contract negotiations resumed Monday, Hollingsworth said.

Regarding safety, Hollingsworth said drivers sought more time to inspect their buses and a better means for communicating any concerns that arise.

According to Potomac Local, an online news website, pay and hours were also an issue. Drivers were seeking a 20% pay raise over the next three years, First Transit spokesman Jay Brock told Potomac Local.

Drivers were also unhappy with schedules that left them with long breaks between rush hours, Potomac Local reports.

Calls to Brock were not immediately returned Monday night.

OmniRide drivers work for First Transit, a contractor that provides drivers for commuter bus services across the nation. OmniRide announced the tentative agreement late Monday afternoon. 

Christine Rodrigo, an OmniRide spokeswoman, said the operation hoped to restart normal bus service Tuesday, depending on how many drivers show up to work. OmniRide asked that riders prepare for another day of limited routes -- just in case.

Passengers can stay informed about OmniRide’s operating status by checking OmniRide.com and signing up for Rider Express alerts.

OmniRide will also have staff at key commuter lots on Tuesday morning to help direct passengers and answer their questions, Rodrigo said.

Monday was the third straight day that riders were forced to cope with only partial service because of the driver strike.

Instead of running full routes to multiple destinations in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., OmniRide buses took riders only to the nearest Metro stations. 

For riders in the Interstate 95 corridor, that meant buses went back and forth between commuter lots and the Pentagon only. In the Interstate 66 corridor, buses ferried riders between commuter lots and the Vienna Metro Station.

Some OmniRide bus drivers began participating in a work stoppage on Aug. 1, after their existing contract expired. First Transit has been negotiating with the union that represents its bus operators since March 2019.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

 

 

 

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