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.