The local transit operators union that service King County’s Metro has agreed to forgo raises next year, according to a tentative agreement posted on the ATU 587’s website. The ATU is promoting the following compromises:
- As we reported last week, transit operators will forgo a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for the first year of the contract, effectively freezing current wage levels. This will save about $7.8 million compared to the expiring contract.
- In years 2 and 3 — beginning at the end of October in 2011 and 2012, respectively — bus drivers will get modest raises of 0.7% in year 2 and 0.6% on top of that in year 3.
- In addition, drivers will receive a COLA based on local inflation in those out years. The COLA has no cap and just a 0% floor — so drivers can never face a wage decrease. This represents a major concession from the union, which had secured a 3% floor in the last contract
- Metro will gain some “efficiencies,” the union document says, by allowing part-time operators to do more overtime work that is current given to full-time operators. Metro has long desired to pay part-time wages for some services, because a full-time overtime hour is much more costly than an additional part-time hour.
Overall, the proposed agreement looks like a good deal for Metro (and, thus, for taxpayers). Particularly important is the move toward giving part-time operators to get more work, which is a no-brainer savings for Metro and also seem more equitable because part-timers are often starved for hours. The rule change would allow part-time operators to take extra work that would put them beyond 8 hours in a given day, a change that Metro has been pushing for years, according to a part-time driver we spoke with.
The agreement means “fewer employees working more hours,” local ATU President Paul Bachtel told us in an email last night, “whether it be part-time working additional [trips] or full-time working overtime.” Bachtel said Metro’s part-time driver base would shrink due to “attrition,” which “means fewer benefit packages being purchased” — more savings for the transit agency facing a long-term budget crunch.
“The negotiated agreement is reflective of the recent audit findings, saves Metro money, provides more hours for both part and full-time employees,” Bachtel said.
Bus drivers don’t come away in a bad position: while a year’s inflation even if modest will give them a small real pay cut, the modest pay raises in later years may mitigate that or have drivers come out ahead. Metro operators are paid well compared to other agencies in the region, so it makes sense for their wage to mostly grow with just inflation.
Smaller changes in the proposed contract include the maintenance efficiencies — like buying able to buy some components instead of fabricating them — and the Union throwing its hat into the scheduling ring.
The proposal must be ratified by union members before entering effect. Spokespeople for King County Executive Dow Constantine wouldn’t comment to us, saying they have an agreement with the union to not discuss the contract until it’s approved by union members.