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Westmoreland transit drivers, mechanics could strike

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Union drivers and mechanics for the Westmoreland County Transit Authority have authorized their leadership to call a strike later this summer.

John Costa, international vice president for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1738 said Thursday night that membership took a strike-authorization vote that granted the bargaining unit's leadership the power to call a work stoppage.

The 52 union members have been working without a contract for nearly a year. Negotiations between the union and National Express, the Chicago-based transit company that operates the buses for the authority, have been stagnant Costa said.

Union members are employees of National Express. The transit authority is not involved in labor talks.

A two-day bargaining session this week failed to result in any agreements on either economic or other issues, according to the union.

Another negotiating session is planned for mid-July. Costa said a strike won't be called until those talks are held.

“If it doesn't go well membership wants to see something happen,” Costa said.

Bill Giordanengo, general manager for National Express, said Thursday he could not comment on the negotiations and that he had no knowledge of a strike-authorization vote by the union.

Transit officials said it was unclear how a potential strike would impact the bus system, which last month carried more than 48,000 riders.

“I expect the company (National Express) will provide the service based on what we have contracted for,” said authority Executive Director Larry Morris.

National Express is in the third year of a five-year, $12.4 million deal to run the authority's bus system.

Union members, as they did in May, complained to the authority board on Thursday about the condition and safety of the bus fleet.

Authority officials said the fleet of more than 40 buses has been reviewed and a state police inspection last week found only minor issues that have since been addressed.

“As far as we're concerned the buses are safe. We had the buses checked. We take this very seriously,” said authority board vice chairwoman Rosie Wolford.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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