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Talks in Orange County bus drivers strike go nowhere

July 12, 2007|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

Negotiators for the Orange County Transportation Authority and striking bus drivers ended their talks Wednesday with no apparent progress toward an agreement that would end the 5-day-old strike, but with plenty of recrimination on both sides.

Blaming the stalemate on union recalcitrance, the OCTA chairwoman raised the specter of a protracted strike and encouraged the county's 220,000 stranded bus riders to make alternative arrangements for the near future.

The leader of the striking bus drivers union, on the other hand, dismissed that accusation and leveled a charge of his own, saying the agency's negotiators had walked out on the talks Wednesday without hearing a counterproposal.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume today at 11 a.m.

Both sides said the sticking point continued to be over which union members should receive the bulk of the wage increases under the three-year agreement. The agency, citing a need to attract drivers, wants to distribute the pay raises evenly across the experience spectrum to make the job more attractive to prospective employees. The union, however, wants to concentrate the raises among senior drivers to repay them for taking a smaller share in past contracts.

"There was some hope early on that we were going to be able to come to an agreement and get this strike over with," OCTA Chairwoman Carolyn Cavecche said Wednesday. But "this does not look like it is going to be solved if the union leadership is not willing to talk about fairly compensating all of our coach operators."

But Patrick Kelly, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 952, said the group had agreed to OCTA's suggested hourly pay of $14.27 for new drivers in the first year of the contract, and offered to accept slight raises in the second and third year. By contrast, he said, "they haven't moved a dime since before the strike."

"We came here the other day to make a deal," Kelly said. "We came here today to make a deal. But we can't make a deal if there's nobody here to make a deal with."

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christian.berthelsen@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

(Ran in Orange County Edition)

Bus strike update

Information about operational bus lines and transportation alternatives can be found here:

* Transit: (714) 636-7433 or www.octa.net

* Rideshare: www.socata.net

* Carpools: (800) 266-6883 or www.commutesmart.info

* Taxis: (949) 654-8294 or www.octap.net

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