VTA bus drivers to hold town hall forum

Deborah Carruthers, left, a seasonal Vineyard Haven resident, talks with two VTA bus drivers, Boyan Chomberov, center, and Petar Petyoshin, during the VTA protest at Five Corners on Saturday afternoon. — Gabrielle Mannino

Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus drivers are hosting a town hall forum this weekend to discuss the possibility of a strike, which the union representing drivers authorized in April.

Drivers have invited elected officials and the public to the event to learn about and discuss issues drivers have been facing while trying to bargain with Transit Connection Inc. (TCI), the drivers’ parent company.

“This will be a chance for riders and community members to learn more about how we reached this decision, how they can prepare for the possibility of a bus service disruption, and what role they can play to prevent this outcome,” a Facebook post announcing the forum states.

Richard Townes of the VTA drivers told The Times the VTA has not made any attempt to get TCI to negotiate. VTA administrator Angela Grant could not be reached for comment, as she is on medical leave.

“The union has made a counterproposal, but TCI has, as of yet, refused to return to the table, leaving Martha’s Vineyard bus drivers with few options moving forward. Engaging in a strike is always a last resort, and the drivers will do all that they reasonably can to make sure the disruption to their community’s day-to-day lives is minimal,” Nico Ericksen-Deriso, a press contact for the bus drivers and the ATU, said in a release.

TCI offered drivers and their union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), a final contract last month.

“This is probably the last opportunity for the community to help find a solution and get prepared for an interruption in service. We’re out of options,” Townes said.

The forum is Saturday, June 22, at 11:30 am in the cafeteria at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs.