As contract talks drag on with no apparent end in sight, Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus drivers held a public meeting at the high school Saturday to inform residents about what to expect in the event of a strike.

Thirty-two community members and 13 bus drivers were in attendance at a meeting that was threaded with tension at times.

The drivers, who are prospective members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), voted a month ago to authorize a strike, but have held off as negotiations remain ongoing with Transit Connection Inc. (TCI), the management company that operates the buses.

Wages, working conditions and seniority perks for drivers are among the issues that the two sides have been unable to come to terms on.

TCI labor relations consultant Greg Dash attempted to explain the proposed contract, although his words were often drowned out by the frustrated crowd. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Talks have been under way since last August. A federal mediator was brought in over the winter.

Tensions escalated late this spring when TCI invited members of the press to attend talks held at the Tisbury emergency services facility.

Offers and counter-offers have been made public, an unusual step in labor negotiations.

Meanwhile, the possibility of a strike looms at the start of summer.

“Strike signs have been made, strike support funds are available, and people are ready to boycott the buses,” Bruce Hamilton, vice president of the ATU said Saturday.

He added that a handful of community members have volunteered to provide rides to those who rely on public transportation.

TCI labor relations consultant Greg Dash also attended the meeting and attempted to explain the proposed contract from a failed negotiation in January, although his words were often drowned out by the frustrated crowd.

Mr. Dash said with an “immediate wage increase of between $2 and $4 per hour,” he believed that the proposed contract is fair.

The TCI contract proposes a $19.50 per hour rate for first-year employees that could go up to $25.50 for employees after their 10th year. After four contract years, the hourly rate for a 10-plus year employee will increase to $27.06.

VTA drivers are proposing a $19.50 hourly rate for first-year employees that can increase to $27.50 after the fifth year. After three contract years, the rate for five-plus year employees would increase to $29.17, under the drivers’ proposal.

Roland Goulart, an Islander who has worked for TCI and the VTA for 20 years, said that though the raise proposed in the TCI contract is significant, it is not a good deal for the many drivers who are well past the 10-plus year mark.

“I don’t have four years to wait,” he said.

Mr. Hamilton said Mr. Dash’s proposal is still not a “decent living wage for the Island.”

The event boiled to an end when Mr. Dash bluntly denied Mr. Hamilton’s request to negotiate on the spot.

“It’s time to start doing some radical stuff,” Mr. Hamilton said as he left the stage. “If no progress is made soon, the plan is to call for a strike.”