Strike ending, but REX service not back to normal yet

Side of a REX bus showing logo

Richmond Highway Express (REX) and other Metrobus routes in Fairfax County that have been affected by a strike since October are expected to resume normal service soon, although it’s not exactly clear when.

ATU Local 689, the group representing workers at the Cinder Bed facility in Lorton, announced Tuesday that after 80 days they have reached a tentative agreement with Transdev, the private contractor hired by WMATA to operate the Cinder Bed garage. Details of the agreement have not been released, and a formal vote on the agreement will not happen until Thursday, according to WTOP.

In the meantime, WMATA announced Wednesday evening that the REX and other bus routes affected by the strike will continue running a Saturday schedule on Thursday. WTOP also reported that it may take days before all of the routes get back to normal.

REX buses have been on a Saturday schedule since October 24, when workers at the Cinder Bed facility went on strike. Other Metrobus routes were forced to shut down completely.

The Cinder Bed workers, who maintain and drive Metrobuses but are employed by Transdev, had been demanding pay and benefits similar to what other bus operators in the area make. ATU Local 689 said Metro’s privatization of the garage essentially created “a two-tier workforce” for employees performing the same work.

“Our members at Cinder Bed Road sacrificed for months to ensure that public transit careers were steady paths to the middle class,” Raymond Jackson, President and Business Agent of ATU Local 689, said in a press release. “With this tentative agreement it solidifies that transit companies can’t cut costs at the expense of workers’ ability to feed their families.”

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said Tuesday that he has been involved in the ongoing negotiations, and called the agreement to end the strike “good news for everyone.”

“I’m pleased to hear about the better wages that have been negotiated, and that service will soon return for commuters following additional action from the union,” McKay said. “After weeks of outreach, I was glad to help resolve this strike and remain confident that WMATA’s recent labor deal on wages and benefits will protect the system’s drivers and mechanics moving forward.”

McKay and new Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw also put forward a board matter at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors asking the Fairfax County Department of Transportation look into recovering money from Metro due to the lack of service provided during the strike.

“[T]he operating funds we provide Metro are based on an expectation of service,” McKay said. “This fiscal year, due to the prolonged work stoppage, Metro did not provide the service promised.”