ORANGE, Calif. - Orange County bus maintenance workers went on a strike Tuesday after negotiations between the workers' union and the Orange County Transportation Authority broke down, according to the union. Bus service throughout the county were shut down as maintenance workers are set to picket as soon as 4 p.m. today.
According to the Teamsters Local 952, the strike announcement comes after OCTA walked away from negotiations earlier this week.
"We understand how this labor dispute will adversely affect thousands of riders who depend on the bus system
for their transportation needs," union Secretary-Treasurer Eric Jimenez said. "We have done everything in our power to avoid a strike… But when OCTA walked away from the table on Monday, they gave us no other choice. "
"That's untrue," said OCTA spokesperson Joel Zlotnik. "I won't discuss the details of the negotiations. There have been proposals back and forth, and we fully expected to continue those talks on Friday."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: OC bus strike postponed as negotiations resume
The strike forced a shutdown in bus service.
"We cannot safely operate our buses without our maintenance employees," Zlotnik said.
The union said earlier this month that it's looking for a new deal that would address "key health and welfare issues." Their agreement with OCTA expired on Sept. 30, and covers 150 mechanics, machinists and service workers. Negotiations started on May 25 and there have been 25 bargaining sessions through the summer.
OCTA bus drivers also threatened to strike earlier this year, but that strike was averted.
Zlotnik said the agency was "very disappointed in the approach the union has taken in these negotiations. We have reached out to them and had asked to continue meeting on Friday, and, instead, it appears rather than meet they have chosen to go on strike," and said that OCTA has provided a "competitive, fair offer and similar in nature to the agreement we reached with coach operators earlier this year, and we're disappointed the union won't continue the negotiations," Zlotnik said.
According to OCTA, more than 85% of riders use busses as their primary means of transportation.
City News Service contributed to this report.