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Fairfax leaders rapped by union for staying out of fray in strike

Fairfax Connector service has been shut down nearly a week with no end in sight

As a strike against the Fairfax Connector bus service rolls on, the union representing workers wants to know why Fairfax County government leaders have not stepped in to try and resolve the dispute.

“Fairfax County officials have continued to remain silent and have refused to stand with workers and demand that their contractor bargain in good faith,” Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 said in a Feb. 26 statement.

That same day, Fairfax officials announced that Fairfax Connector service would be canceled Feb. 27 and hinted at the possibility that it could continue so for the entire work week.

The transit service is funded by the Fairfax County government but is operated by Transdev, a contractor. County officials have steadfastly said they have no role in the labor negotiations; it is a position union officials reject, singling out Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay for his inaction.

“To this date, Chair McKay has still not met with the union leadership,” Local 689 officials said Feb. 26, adding that they were “more than willing to meet with Chair McKay when he’s ready.”

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has encouraged Fairfax Connector riders to seek out alternate modes of travel.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and truly appreciate your patience,” the agency said on Feb. 28, reiterating the county government’s position that “Fairfax County is not a party to labor negotiations between Transdev and labor unions.”

A key issue in the dispute is retirement; the union is pushing for a pension plan while currently employees can contribute to a 401(k) retirement account.

The strike by drivers and mechanics began Feb. 22; next scheduled session between Local 689 and Transdev is slated for March 5. Federal mediators are expected to attend this session, union officials said.

While local-government employees in Virginia are prohibited from striking even if they are covered by collective-bargaining agreements, there is no such prohibition on the Fairfax Connector workers since they are employed by a private entity.