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GRTC Operations Return to Normal Following “Sick-Out”

bus
Regular bus service is resuming after a 'sick-out,' but drivers say their demands still stand. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

GRTC bus operations were back to normal on Tuesday, following Monday’s driver ‘sick-out’ and CEO Julie Timm’s threat to fire those on strike. But the union representing the drivers says it still has unmet demands.

In a letter sent to GRTC’s CEO, the union’s list of demands included hazard pay for frontline workers at one-and-a-half times their normal rate and the implementation of a 10-passenger limit.

Carrie Rose Pace, a spokesperson for GRTC, said the company’s leadership can’t give hazard pay without approval from its Board of Directors, but added that it’ll be up for discussion at their next meeting on May 19. And while there isn’t a rider limit, GRTC has redirected resources to more-trafficked routes.

“We’ve been putting more buses on those routes so that passengers can physically spread out,” Pace said.

The union’s president, Maurice Carter, declined VPM’s request for comment. But in a press release that went out Tuesday night, Carter accused GRTC of forcing sick drivers back to work.

“GRTC workers who are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms need to be allowed to stay home without being fired,” Carter said. “GRTC’s wrongheaded decision to threaten workers who call in sick is disgusting and endangers the communities my coworkers I and proudly serve in these difficult times.”

CEO Julie Timm responded to the claims on Twitter by saying that the transit company already has a pandemic leave policy in place for affected employees. She added that while testing is not mandatory, it’s available to employees through insurance at regular testing sites and for free at Virginia Center Commons, regardless of whether they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

So far, 21 GRTC employees have been tested — only one of which was confirmed to have the disease.

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