Orange County’s disabled public transit riders will be waiting on the streets longer as their 260 shuttle drivers have gone on strike.
Drivers for OC ACCESS, the county’s shuttle service for the disabled, say they’re walking away from the negotiating table because their employer wants to force overtime and unpaid lunches of up to two-and-a-half hours.
They also say that requests for a raise have been ignored.
Officials with the OC Transportation Authority, meanwhile, say the drivers’ gripe is with First Transit, the third party company that OCTA pays to operate the shuttles.
Thus, the county transit agency says it’s got no seat at the negotiating table.
“We’re watching and observing, we have no role at the table,” said agency spokesperson Eric Carpenter. “We can only urge them to continue talking.”
“We clearly understand the impact this strike may have on the riders. This service tends to veer more towards whether the sick or elderly just cannot drive,” said Teamsters Local 952’s Secretary-Treasurer, Eric Jimenez, in a Thursday phone interview. “But at the end of the day, if our drivers were to quit flat out, they wouldn’t have drivers at all.”
Mitun Seguin, a spokesperson for Transdev, First Transit’s parent company, declined requests for an interview and issued a statement after this story was published.
“First Transit is negotiating with the Teamsters 952 and remains hopeful that we will come to an amicable resolution soon with minimal disruption to the riding public,” Seguin wrote.
First Transit and the union representing the drivers have been negotiating since October 2022, after a prior contract covering 350 employees expired at the end of that year, according to a news release sent out by the union, known as Teamsters Local 952.
Those debates are throwing around 3,500 daily trips into limbo, according to an OCTA news release, which said all riders should be prepared for “significant delays,” until they hear otherwise.
“The OC ACCESS provider will attempt to accommodate all trips,” the authority said in a statement online. “OCTA is encouraging OC ACCESS passengers to consider making alternate transportation arrangements, if possible.”
OC ACCESS functions as a ride-sharing service throughout the county for pre-approved disabled residents, and moves around as fast as the county bus system does, according to OCTA.
Union leaders say their labor talks stalled over what they called First Transit’s “outlandish, non-economic terms,” and said the company “failed to address key economic issues instead offering substandard wage and pension increases.”
The union has around 250 drivers working for OC ACCESS, according to the transportation authority.
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