WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – A Westchester County spokesperson said Thursday afternoon that it was unlikely there would be a bus strike in the county and that both sides were working to hammer out an agreement.
“All the buses were running today and they’ll be running tomorrow and they’re going to be running for the near future as the union and management go back to the bargaining table,” Westchester County Deputy Communications Director Donna Greene said Thursday.
The current contract between Liberty Bus Lines, which runs anumber of Westchester routes, and Transit Worker's Union Local 100 expired at midnight Feb. 29, but both sides agreed to “stop the clock” indefinitely.
“They stopped the clock this morning [Thursday] at 2:00 and it’s stopped indefinitely, so it’s not like, 'OK, now we have to go through this again tonight and tomorrow night and so on,'” said Greene.
Thousands of local bus riders woke up with a sense of relief on Thursday morning after learning that Liberty Lines Transit, Inc. decided not to strike at the midnight Wednesday deadline and that talks were continuing.
Greene said the county, which does not play a role in the negotiating, always felt a strike was unlikely and one is not “imminent” now. She continued by saying the county is “more and more optimistic that it won’t happen,” but she warned that “until you have a signed and sealed contract, you can’t say that with certainty.”
County Executive Robert Astorino thanked both sides for their effort in taking the necessary steps to avoid a strike. The executive’s full statement can be read on the county website.
“One hundred thousand riders of the Bee-Line bus system awoke to good news this morning,” Astorino said in his statement. “A strike would have put at risk critical public services provided by our hospitals and other businesses that have many employees who rely on the bus to get to work.”
New Rochelle resident Maria Peragine, who uses the bus every day to get to work in Mount Vernon, was jubilant upon hearing that the bus drivers and mechanics of Liberty Lines did not strike.
“I’m hoping that they will settle and they will meet their contract and get the drivers on the road because there’s a million people up here that need transportation, like me, to go to school, to go to work," she said. "We need the buses for up here.”
The items that have been discussed throughout the negotiation process are wage demands and the pension plan of the drivers and mechanics, “which both sides agree is underfunded and in critical condition,” according to the TWU website. The employer’s cost for health insurance, “which the Union acknowledges have sharply increased,” is also under discussion.
The Bee-Line bus service serves approximately 100,000 passengers in Westchester in addition to employing 572 drivers and mechanics, according to the Transit Workers Union website. Liberty Lines is a private firm, contracted by the county, to provide transportation services.
Calls by Main Street Connect to the TWU Local 100 and Liberty Lines Transit, Inc. went unreturned.