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COTA to go on strike Monday, leaving students without transport

Lantern file photo

Union workers informed Central Ohio Transit Authority last week that they might be going on strike, and it was reported Friday that a strike is now unavoidable.

This is set to happen just in time to coincide with one of the biggest events in downtown Columbus.

Central Ohio Transit Authority workers will cease work on July 2 at 3 a.m., suspending all fixed bus routes including an additional 200 buses scheduled to run on July 3 for the 32nd annual Red, White and Boom downtown.

The firework event typically draws more than 250,000 viewers to the downtown area.

Leading up to the strike, COTA posted a strike notice on their website informing visitors that if “bus drivers, vehicle maintenance and support workers refuse to come to work, COTA cannot safely and effectively operate fixed-route bus service.”

In a press release, COTA offered to assist those affected by the strike by refunding anyone who had purchased fares that cannot be used due to limited service availability. This refund, however, does not apply to the COTA fee paid by full-time OSU students before every term, providing unlimited rides on the bus service for that time.

On the quarter system, students paid a $9 fee, which according to the COTA website will be increased to $13.50 with OSU’s change to semesters this fall. Students enrolled in classes are paying $6.75 for the summer term, which breaks down to about 20 cents a day.

“If the strike is a few days…is it worth trying to work through the administrative cost and things along that line to refund 60 cents?” said university registrar Brad Myers. “I’m not trying to say that wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen, I’m just saying let’s think out loud in practical considerations.”

Myers said the university plans to wait and see if the strike occurs, and how long it lasts before formulating any kind of reimbursement plan.

The strike is organized by members of the Transportation Workers Union of America, Local 208 to protest contract negotiations. COTA employees have been negotiating a new contract since last August, and have been working without a contract since November.

COTA workers denied recommendations by a state fact-finder from the state employment relations board in April, and rejected the tentative deal. Union members were opposed to elements of the deal that include a one percent increase in payments toward their public-employee pensions in 2013 and 2014 and a staggered wage in which maintenance workers hired before 2005 would be paid more than those who have joined the company since.

The notice of strike and picket was submitted June 22, detailing the groups intention to protest. Local 208 is expecting 660 employees to strike if they decide to move forward with protests.

“We are very disappointed that the Union has signaled its intention to walk off the job,” said COTA President and CEO Curtis Stitt, in a press release. “We will sit down with the Union at any time to try and avert a service disruption.”

Local 208 president Andrew Jordan said that they are working to avoid a strike.

“Our intention is to get this done on Sunday,” he said. The group is meeting with a federal mediator to discuss the problem at that time.

It was reported Friday afternoon that the strike has been confirmed and is set to move forward Monday.

Many students use the bus lines to travel to work, internships, or to commute from home. The strike hinders those students, as well as faculty and staff who use the service.

In lieu of the inconvenience, OSU transportation and parking is offering students and staff options to ease the inconvenience of the protest.

It issued a community alert last week, informing OSU affiliates of their transportation options in case of a strike, and to clarify that this strike will have no affect on the Campus Area Bus Service system.

OSU Transportation and Parking wrote in the alert that faculty and staff cars will be permitted to park in certain spaces on West Campus lots in case of a strike, and that Medical Center staff will be permitted to park at the Buckeye Lots at Ackerman Road without a parking pass. This will allow employees to use the CABS system to get to work as an alternative to COTA.

 

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