A RapidRide at Bellevue Transit Center Image: Oran Viriyincy

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 587 approved a three-year labor contract which includes a nine percent raise over three years and allows part-time drivers to work weekend shifts, King County Metro Transit announced Tuesday.

The current contract prohibits part-time drivers from working weekends and past 8:30 pm during the week. According to Metro, this change will make weekend service more cost-efficient and prevent the cancellation of bus service when a driver is unavailable. Under the new agreement, part-time workers will also be allowed to work later into the night.

“Greater use of part-time operators is a significant change. This will allow for more service and will help Metro recruit the operators it needs to increase service now and into the future,” wrote Scott Gutierrez, Metro spokesperson in an email.

Sixty-five percent of roughly 4,100 union members approved the deal, according to Gutierrez.

The contract includes an estimated $85 million in wage and benefit increases, with salary increases retroactive to Nov. 1, 2016. A three percent and four percent raise in subsequent years will follow.

The deal further guarantees drivers rest periods by inserting specific language into the contract and moves longer breaks “to more meaningful times in operators’ shifts, such as middle of the day instead of within the first or last hour.”

“This contract is the first agreed upon contract in over six years. This contract by far contains many more sweeping and innovative changes than any other previously negotiated contract between the two parties,” wrote Michael Shea, ATU 587 President in a press release. “These changes will allow our members to obtain fairer, safer and more secure working conditions.”

ATU Local 587 represents employees who operate and maintain Metro buses, Sound Transit’s Link light rail and the Seattle Streetcar, and workers who maintain facilities and provide customer service.

The previous collective bargaining agreement was resolved through arbitration, according to Gutierrez.

Also coming out of the deal is the creation of two committees aimed at improving safety and addressing employee fatigue, along with a high-voltage committee to develop training for employees working on high-voltage electric and hybrid buses.

Metro also agreed to cover the costs of physical exams required before bus drivers can obtain or renew their commercial driver’s license.

Gutierrez said Metro’s current labor contract limits the agency’s part-time operator workforce to 45 percent of its total workforce. Under the new agreement, that limit will decrease to 35 percent in September 2018, and 33 percent in September 2019.

“Greater flexibility to schedule part-time operators will produce savings that offset some of the costs of hiring more full-time people,” Gutierrez said.

The contract will now go before the King County Council for approval.

14 Replies to “New Labor Agreement Allows Part-time Drivers to Work Weekends”

  1. Do you have a copy of the contract? I’d especially like to see how the contract words “more meaningful times in operators’ shifts, such as middle of the day instead of within the first or last hour.”

    1. Some of this is already covered in state and federal law, both for employees in general, and for commercial drivers in particular. Putting it in the contract makes it grievable, rather than requiring going to authorities outside of company management.

      I’m surprised though, if compliance with all local, state and federal laws isn’t already in the contract. It looks like it wasn’t.

      1. As a collective bargaining unit, state and federal laws did not apply regarding breaks, as a collective bargaining unit it made the member exempt, and thus allowed Metro to exploit this for many years, esp. in 2007 when it utilized a computer program to cut ‘recovery’ times to 5min and making it almost imposable for the operators to have any down time from a long day of driving, some, like myself for up to 10.5 hours a day, everyday.

  2. Good for Metro and the union; this new contract sounds like a very good thing that’ll help transit improve.

    I’m surprised that the salary increase is retroactive to last November, though – is that a typical thing?

    1. Yes, retro increases to the date a previous contract ended are common in union negotiations. Continuing negotiations well beyond the expiration date of a contract (as happened here) is also common.

  3. It almost sounds like these two cancel each other out:

    Metro’s current labor contract limits the agency’s part-time operator workforce to 45 percent of its total workforce. Under the new agreement, that limit will decrease to 35 percent in September 2018, and 33 percent in September 2019.

    [The new contract] allows part-time drivers to work weekend shifts

    What happens to the 10% of operators that are “forced out” of part-timing? Where does that 10% reduction come from? Are they automatically promoted to full time, with no required shift changes, but access to all the new benefits?

    1. Its not really going to make fewer part timers for two reasons. First they will just open up more full time positions for part timers to move into. But there is actually an accounting detail that will completely negate the 10% advertised change. Here is an imgur link to the language: http://imgur.com/O0ZEGfb

  4. So will this fix the rigidity of Sunday schedules and the disproportionately high costs of Sunday service?

      1. I could be wrong but I’ve been under the impression that all Sunday work had to be 8-hour blocks, which has limited both frequency and span. David L would know more.

      2. There were pieces that were shorter than 8 hours. We just got paid for 8. Not many, and most went to the old timers, but you could def find a 6.5 hr piece, and get paid for 8.

      3. Pieces can be shorter or longer, it just means that either the driver is paid for work they don’t do or is paid overtime for every minute over 8 hours. It’s possible to put together a service day of any length under the existing Sunday rules. It’s just very expensive if the service day length isn’t a multiple of 8 hours.

        I’ll reserve any judgment on whether this will make Sunday service cheaper per hour until I see exactly how the new provisions work.

  5. In 1983, as Metro geared up for the Downtown Seattle Transit Project- LINK’s real beginnings- several transit operators of very low seniority persuaded ATU Local 587 to formally request the formation of an employee advisory committee on project design, execution, and operations.

    The Metro Council and company officials quickly agreed, largely because no one had ever started a regional electric railroad with buses running freeways on diesel, and and electric through a subway. Main question for the project was whether a tunnel graded and curved for light rail could be run with freely-steered buses.

    Throughout design and construction, a dozen drivers, mechanics, facilities workers, and firstline supervisors met regularly with the world’s top rail engineers- earning a lot of very well deserved respect. Some of us also served on a similar committee for the art project. Public art is chiefly civil engineering. Meaning few moving parts and cleanable with a hose.

    I don’t think the advisory effort was ever officially called off. The committee had fulfilled its main purpose, proving that the chosen approach would work, and setting operations into motion. By the time anybody noticed we’d designed a system that couldn’t be automated for a half century- too late.

    But 27 years of rush hour operations show pretty strongly that another infusion of working hands on the design of work , this time permanent, will save transit in our region a great deal of money and avoided aggravation. Our contract had room for it. And also the spirit that got some fairly junior people to make the initial effort.

    Floor’s yours.

    Mark Dublin

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