The Teamsters and GMT will go into one more round of negotiations attempting to settle the dispute with an agreement that is acceptable to both parties on the 4th of March. In March it will be one full year since we started negotiating with GMT in the hope of reaching an agreement and ending the unfair partition of compensation that exists at GMT. Here is how we got here:
In 2015 the Rural Drivers, fed up with being paid poverty level wages and being fired for petty violations, decided to join the Teamsters. The drivers in Berlin had seen dozens of drivers sent out the door over the previous several year span which kept them chronically short staffed.
While GMT merged the pay and benefits of both the Rural and Urban Management and administrative groups so that they were equitable with each other, the company has consistently fought the Rural Drivers to keep them at lower compensation. Even when the maintenance contracts gave the maintenance staff at the Rural and Urban locations compensation parity, the company fought hard to keep the Rural Drivers at lower compensation levels.
For the better part of a decade, the Rural drivers have had to work under the same work rules as Urban Drivers, with even more stringent guidelines, all for less pay. As a public employer that the legislature has specifically exempted from Hours-of-Service mandates, GMT is not mandated to follow any Federal Hours of Service rules, sometimes forcing drivers to work as many as 12.5 hours driving during the day which would not be acceptable for any private bus or trucking company. For years the company has dangled the carrot in front of the drivers that they will be treated equitably, but every time the drivers come asking for that equity, the company gives them the blank stare and starts to stonewall.
The company has been stonewalling now for over 11 months. While the Urban drivers and Maintenance workers completed agreements in the fall, and the company handed out lucrative ‘appreciation’ bonuses to the management staff at Christmas, the Rural drivers have consistently been told that there is no money in the budget for them. VTRANS, despite the law stating that they will fund Urban and Rural Transportation Equitably, just won’t, according to GMT, fund them equitably.
The Rural Drivers, meanwhile, who enjoy what they do, continue to make sure that people across the Barre/Montpelier and St. Albans area continue to be able to get to work, make it to doctor’s appointments and get to the grocery store. Just like everyone else, they work hard and put in long hours, but GMT refuses to budge and give the drivers an offer that would reduce the huge financial burden of purchasing healthcare for their families. Rural Drivers at GMT spend upwards of $1,400 per month to pick up healthcare for their families, creating hardship for these middle-class workers who make below the median income for the state of Vermont.
It is time for GMT to treat the Rural Drivers fairly and offer them a fair deal. If equal compensation is fair for all other groups of full-time employees at GMT, then it is fair for the people who drive for the company too, which is the primary service the company offers. These drivers are simply asking for what the rest of the drivers at the company already receive. Because the company simply refuses to budge, the drivers have decided to strike starting on 3/11 until the company gives them a fair contract that allows them to take care of their families.
Please tell GMT to give the Rural Drivers a fair contract. You can call GMT at 802-864-2282 and tell them to treat the Rural Drivers Fairly. They hold their next board meeting scheduled on Tuesday the 15th of March. You can arrange free transportation to get there by calling 802-540-2468 within the GMT service areas.