Union pushes off Berkshire Regional Transit Authority strike

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PITTSFIELD — The union representing paratransit drivers at the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority will delay its strike, a union representative said Monday.

Victor Santiago, business agent for the Pittsfield unit of Teamsters Local 404, said if a meeting next week with a federal mediator goes well then the union could call off the strike.

"The union's trying to avoid that at all cost," Santiago said, citing Berkshire residents dependent on the service. "That's the last thing anybody wants."

Still, he said if terms of the contract under negotiation don't change, then last week's vote to stop work could take effect the following day, Feb. 22.

"If nothing is accomplished, it is what it is," Santiago said. "We already made a decision."

The contract in dispute is between the BRTA's 19 paratransit drivers and a First Transit subsidiary, Paratransit Management of the Berkshires, which has operated the BRTA's on-call bus service since July 2016.

Santiago said that because the union also represents some 35 fixed-route employees — drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers — a strike could deal a systemwide blow to BRTA.

"If the paratransit drivers go out on strike, we're going to be picketing at the gate and the rest of the guys will not cross the picket line," Santiago said. "Hopefully we will be able to avoid it and come to a resolution."

Santiago said negotiations on behalf of the fixed-route employees also begin next week.

Reach Amanda Drane at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter or at 413-496-6296.


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