Thursday, March 17, 2011

Metro's union employees approve new contract

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 627 membership has voted 409-49 to approve a three-year labor contract with Metro, ending a period of nearly seven weeks in which they were working under a previous contract.

The new contract, which would expire January 31, 2014, covers approximately 676 Metro bus drivers, mechanics, and operations support employees.

Terms of the contract include a lump sum of $500 in wages for 2011, with an additional 1 percent paid in February 2012, August 2012, February 2013, and August 2013. It also offers three medical plan options, including two separate high-deductible plan options as well as a PPO plan.

The previous contract expired January 31, 2011, but negotiations have been ongoing since December.

"Wages and health insurance costs were the major issues for us," said Mark Bennett, president and business agent for ATU Local 627, in a prepared release. "ATU recognizes the importance of transit to the community, and we stayed at the bargaining table to hammer out an agreement that would provide good wages and benefits for our employees while recognizing Metro's budget constraints."

In early February, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority board of trustees rejected a set of recommendations from the State Employment Relations Board due to massive wage increases and a lack of clarity on health insurance provisions and costs, which it said could mean severe service cutbacks.

Metro CEO and General Manager Terry Garcia Crews said that the contract negotiations struck a fine balance between balancing costs and meeting employees' needs.

"Both union and management have struggled with how to give our employees a fair, competitive package while remaining fiscally responsible in these lean budget times," she said. "This contract meets the needs of employees and the taxpayers who fund our service and can be accommodated within our 2011 budget."

The contract still must be approved by the SORTA board, which meets on Friday.

Previous reading on BC:
Metro ridership up 5 percent in February (3/15/11)
Motion directs restored SORTA funding; New leaders announced (2/15/11)
SORTA rejects recommendations on new driver contract (2/3/11)
SORTA says City funding decision violates contract, sets 'dangerous precedent' (1/10/11)
Metro wins $1.9M for hybrid buses (6/10/10)