PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The paratransit strike is entering its second week with no sign of resolution.
The work stoppage has affected the regular Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus routes, causing havoc for people trying to get to jobs, schools and other appointments.
One individual, who wished to remain anonymous, told iBerkshires they'd used up sick time because they were unable to get to work last week and a friend lost her job for the same reason.
"If this strike goes on much longer I don't know if I will have a job or how I will pay for housing," the frustrated BRTA rider wrote.
Transit officials have been working to keep some semblance of limited access on routes going up and down the county.
"This is a disappointing situation where the paratransit division is impacting the fixed route division, which has a current contract to work," wrote BRTA Administrator Robert Malnati. "Currently, the lines of communication remain open to hopefully resolve this strick quickly."
The most current regular bus route schedule will be in effect beginning Tuesday, Dec. 11:
Route 1 will operate 6:30 and 9:00 morning runs and 2:30, and 4:30 evening runs. The 6:30 and 4:30 trips will stop on Main Street North Adams via Hodges Cross Road and Church Street.
Route 2 will operate the 9:00 morning run and 4:30 evening run.
Route 11 will operate 8:35, 9:35, and 10:35 morning runs and 1:50, 2:50, 3:50 and 4:50 evening runs. When this bus returns to the ITC from Berkshire Community College, it will then travel to Walmart via East Street and Hubbard Avenue.
The union representing paratransit drivers for Paratransit Management of the Berkshires rejected a contract on Dec. 3. Despite the fixed-route drivers having come to a three-year agreement with BRTA in July, they will not cross the picket line.
Supervisors and employees of Berkshire Transit Management, which operates the fixed-route service, have been stepping in but there are not enough of them to run all the regular routes.
"This service is limited and is very unfair to the riders throughout Berkshire County who depend on the bus every day," wrote Malnati.
Negotiations on a three-year contract with the paratransit drivers, schedulers and dispatch personnel began in June. According to the BRTA, they were offered a 16 percent wage increase for full-time operators and 19.6 percent for part-time, along with more paid time off and other benefits.
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.
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You need to get all the facts correct. The some of the fixed route drivers want to drive but because they are both supported by the Teamsters the paratransit drivers are basically using them at hostages. Its not just the businesses and passengers that are being affected by this but the fixed route drivers and the management who is trying to fill in with limited route offerings are effected too.
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