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Published: Monday, 11/24/2008

Contract extended for 1 year at TARTA

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The union representing TARTA's drivers and mechanics has agreed to extend its recently expired labor contract by one year, effectively forgoing any pay changes during that time.

"The membership decided that it was the best thing to do at this time," Ed Dustman, business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 697, said Friday.

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority's personnel committee recommended Thursday that the full board of trustees also approve the extension. The proposal is to be discussed Dec. 4.

The union made its decision after a review of TARTA finances. It decided that any push for raises could lead to service cuts and layoffs, Mr. Dustman said.

He estimated Local 697's membership at 170; it had 219 members when the latest contract, which had expired Oct. 31, was resolved 22 months ago by a state arbitration panel. The contract extension "makes sense for the whole system," Mr. Dustman said. "We don't want to hurt the riders, either."

"We're certainly not loaded with money," James Gee, the transit authority's general manager, said while explaining the proposal to the agency's personnel committee.

According to the Local 697 contract, a full-time TARTA driver who has four or more years of experience is paid $19.90 per hour, while a top-rated mechanic makes $22.09 per hour, and top-of-scale part-time bus drivers and full-time bus cleaners are paid $13.93 per hour.

Still to be decided is whether the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, UAW Local 5242, representing about 40 transit authority clerical and supervisory workers, will accept a similar one-year extension. Its contract expires Nov. 30, Mr. Gee said.

The transit authority also has no contract in place with ATU members who drive for the Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service, which provides specialized transportation for disabled people within TARTA's nine-community service area.

Drivers for the paratransit service are continuing to be paid under the terms of a contract Local 697 had with First Transit. First Transit is the private contractor that operated the service until late September, when the transit authority took it over.

Mr. Dustman said union and authority negotiators are discussing "noneconomic" terms of a new contract, such as work rules and grievance procedures. "There's nothing involving money" on the table right now, he said.

Local 697 represents about 50 TARPS workers. Top paratransit drivers now are paid $14.38 per hour, while mechanics working on paratransit vehicles are paid the TARTA scale, Mr. Gee said.

Although TARTA successfully floated a levy replacement last year that increased its property-tax revenue this year by about $2.5 million, the agency has struggled to cover the costs of fuel and expanding the paratransit service.

Despite rising ridership, the transit authority cut service by about 7 percent in early September to offset rising costs.

TARTA, which provides service in Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Spencer Township, Maumee, Waterville, Perrysburg, and Rossford, is in the midst of a consultant study that could lead to changes in both its route network and its local funding source.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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