By Maria Corpus
Apologies and free bus rides may have followed after the 72-hour work stoppage held by Milwaukee County bus drivers and mechanics.
But a contract agreement is yet to be set between the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 998.
“I’m willing to go back to the table, but the problem is that the company refuses to go back to the table,” James Macon, Local 998 president, said at a press conference on Monday. “We are not going to accept this contract.”
Macon also apologized for the stress the bus stoppage may have caused and thanked supporters.
“We have neighbors and we have friends that we inconvenienced, and we apologize to you,” he said.
Macon’s press conference came in the early hours on Monday – a day of free MCTS bus rides.
After thousands of people across Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties were left without public bus transportation for three days, County Executive Chris Abele announced the free bus services.
“This day of free transit won’t make up for the massive inconvenience riders felt last week when union leaders went out on strike, however it’s the least we can do to thank the community for their patience,” Abele said in a statement.
“I want to thank all the employees at MCTS who stayed on the job the past few days to make sure service would be ready as soon as this strike ended,” he added.
MCTS is also reimbursing passengers who had an active seven-day or 31-day pass during the three-day work stoppage. Reimbursement can be obtained by contacting MCTS by phone or email.
With no timetable and no meeting between the two parties, however, there’s little comfort for people who rely on the bus.
Macon has also not ruled out the possibility of another work stoppage in the future, if a contract negotiation is not reached.
Last week’s work stoppage was a result of failed contract negotiations. About 92 percent of the union members voted in agreement of a stoppage.
The Local 998’s main disagreement concerns MCTS’s potential move to hire a few hundred part-time workers.
Other disagreements are regarding working conditions and wage compensation.