A few weeks ago on a Friday, a handful of bus drivers employed under the GATRA bus service decided to forego their lunch break in order to picket the company for better health insurance. The current health insurance plan that many of the GATRA workers are currently under is a very expensive one. The family plan currently offered for the bus drivers costs $300 per week, with some GATRA drivers reporting that insurance costs alone account for over half of their paycheck.
The GATRA bus drivers are paid some of the lowest wages for transportation workers in the state, and are required to pay some of the highest premiums for insurance. The GATRA employees that were interviewed said that they have been in close contact with their union about getting better insurance and that they wish to see some action taken to address their complaints.
They said that Frank Gay, an administrator at the GATRA office in Taunton was the leader in holding discussions. One worker claimed that the administrator was, “dragging his heels really hard” in order to postpone any decision being made.
The GATRA drivers claimed that the combination of low wages and high premiums has begun to drive some GATRA employees into poverty. This picket is a precursor to striking, with many of the GATRA drivers that are involved with the picket stating that they don’t wish for a strike to develop, and that they will happily return to work upon GATRA employers sitting down to listen to their demands.
The GATRA bus service provides essential coverage to almost 30 towns in the Southern Massachusetts area, with Wheaton College being located on the Norton/Mansfield line. The GATRA is also essential for low-income residents in the area, as fares costing $1.50 per ride at the absolute most, with reduced rates for seniors, high school and younger students, and those with disabilities, as well as offering free fare to those only riding the GATRA within one town’s vicinity.
The GATRA drivers handed out flyers to people walking by with directions on how people can help them fight for better wages. They suggest calling Frank Gay at (508)-823-8828 and dialing extension 220 or 275 when prompted to do so.