More than 30,000 people who rely on Fairfax Connector buses for their daily commuters will have to grapple with reduced service as workers employed by contractor Transdev strike for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Workers began picketing early Thursday after Union President John Costa said negotiations failed on Wednesday.
"Transdev is extremely disappointed by the Union’s decision to walk away from the bargaining table," the company said in a statement.
The 600 members of ATU Local 1764 voted in early November to strike. The collective bargaining agreement expired Nov. 30.
"We held off as long as we could, but Transdev made clear at negotiations today that they would rather see service disrupted than their unfair labor practices ended," Costa said in a statement.
The strike affects 91 bus routes, the union said. Five routes were canceled altogether (423, 559, 558, 721 and 937).
Many other routes will run on a Sunday schedule or a limited Sunday schedule; Bus lines not scheduled for Sundays will not operate on Thursday, Fairfax Connector says.
Fairfax Connector says impacted commuters can get rideshare assistance, take Metro or VRE and look into park and ride facilities. Sluglines are also an option.
It's unclear when the strike may end, but the union and Transdev scheduled more talks for Thursday.
"We don't want to be out here. And we feel for the customers who are out there in the cold," said union shop steward Abdulrahman Sanusi. "But at some point during negotiations, you gotta do what you gotta do."
Transdev workers at Metro's Cinder Bed Road garage in Lorton have been on strike for six weeks.
They have asked Metro to hire them directly or force Transdev to negotiate.
Wages and health insurance are among top concerns. Striking Metrobus workers say they are paid significantly less than their counterparts who are employed by Metro. They also say Transdev charges them a $6,000 deductible for health insurance, making it challenging for them to save for retirement.
This strike is affecting thousands of people in Northern Virginia who rely on bus routes 17, 18 and 29. In some cases, commute times have more than doubled.