PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A potential strike by paratransit drivers has been called off after members voted to accept an agreement with Paratransit Management of the Berkshires on Friday.
Robert Malnati, administrator of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, sent a brief notification late Friday that he had been told the tentative agreement settled on Wednesday had been voted by the paratransit union membership. Paratransit Management has operated the bus agency's paratransit services for nearly two years.
The workers represented by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 404 had rejected a "best and final offer" in early February and called for a strike. If the 18 members had walked, it would also have affected the 35 or so fellow union members employed by BRTA who would not have crossed the picket line.
The BRTA has an annual ridership of more than 600,000, with close to 80,000 of those through the paratransit service that supplements the fixed bus service for those with impaired mobility. A strike would have left thousands with no way to get to work, shopping or appointments.
A federal mediator was called in to work with the negotiators and the strike was delayed several times as the two sides edged closer together. The tentative agreement was reached on Wednesday and union members agreed to continue working until it was put to a full vote on Friday. If it had been rejected, the strike would have likely occurred next week.
It is not clear what issues were at stake in the contract.
"Thank you to the BRTA customers for your patience, understanding, and ridership during this process," Malnati wrote.
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Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, visits the site of culvert project in Pittsfield being funded through the state's climate readiness program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides was in Pittsfield on Friday to review a state-funded culvert site and meet with local officials to discuss the state's climate readiness program.
She joined Mayor Linda Tyer at the Churchill Street culvert, a site which recently received grant funding through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The city was awarded an $814,524 state grant in June for the Churchill Brook and West Street Culvert Replacement Project.
Through the MVP program, which begun in 2017, municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. The initiative which initially started as a $500,000 capital grant program has now increased to $12 million. Pittsfield is among the 71 percent of communities across the commonwealth now enrolled in the MVP program.
"The governor and the lieutenant governor have made resilient infrastructure a priority all across the state and I think it's really important to know that we have a really vested interest in Western Massachusetts communities as well as all across the state, not forgetting the Berkshires or Pioneer Valley," said Theoharides in a statement. "Our MVP program is really focused on these types of partnership investments and looking to design infrastructure for the challenges we're seeing today and moving forward as climate change increases."
Four names will be on the preliminary ballot but only three candidates showed for the debate held by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted at Berkshire Community College. The moderator was radio host Larry Kratka and Pittsfield Community Television aired the event.
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