The Orange County Transit District and the union representing the agency's 732 bus drivers have agreed to resume contract negotiations for the first time since last December's ill-fated, two-week drivers' strike.
Also, OCTD and United Transportation Union officials said Wednesday they have agreed to name veteran labor mediator Bonnie P. Castrey to mediate the 6-month-old contract dispute. Castrey was labeled an "undisputed heroine" by management and labor during settlement of a three-week strike by 1,844 Disneyland employees in 1984.
A preliminary meeting between Castrey, UTU Local 19 Chairperson Juliene Smith and OCTD human resources manager Marlene Heyser is scheduled today.
Last week, bus drivers voted by a 2-1 margin to stay with Tustin-based UTU Local 19 by rejecting Long Beach-based Teamsters Union Local 911's takeover bid. The Teamsters had criticized UTU officials' handling of the December walkout.
The drivers have been working without a contract since the strike.
The union is seeking a 10% pay hike over three years; the district has offered 7.5% over 3 1/2 years. In addition, the union objects to OCTD's efforts to tighten policies on drug testing, reduce absenteeism and increase use of private contractors.