The Daily Californian Online

AC Transit Halts Planned Cuts As Part of Union Negotiations

By Kate Lyons
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 15, 2010
Category: News > Parking and Transportation

AC Transit halted weekend service cuts planned for December on Wednesday as part of the conclusion to an ongoing arbitration and negotiations with its bus drivers' union.

The dispute's arbitration panel released its decision last Friday, resulting in a new three-year contract and bringing an end to months of heated labor negotiations between the district and the Amalgamated Transit Local Union 192.

According to an AC Transit statement, the new contract requires union members to contribute to health and benefit plans and agree to some work rule and holiday service changes, saving the district approximately $38 million over the next three years.

In turn, the district agreed to stop proposed December cuts aimed to save $5.5 million. An $8.5 million reduction in labor costs for the fiscal year 2010-11 will cover the targeted cost savings, according to a district fiscal assessment.

The decision comes after eight months of contentious negotiation between the district and the union. The process began in April in anticipation of the contact's expiration on July 30. In July, the district imposed the contract, which the union challenged in court, resulting in a court order that sent both parties to arbitration.

Union president Claudia Hudson said the contract is intact, but the union is still not happy.

"They wanted to tear up our contract," she said. "We would have reached the same decision months ago if (AC Transit) had been willing to negotiate. In the end, we took a wage cut but decided that it should be tied to maintaining service at least through March."

According to Hudson, there will be a six percent wage cut this year, with a further 5 percent decrease next year and 3 percent in the third year.

Beverly Greene, spokesperson for AC Transit, said the agreement was one step forward in stabilizing the district's finances.

"The $38 million we will save over three years helps us continue to work on the sustainability of the organization," she said.

The cancelled December cuts planned to eliminate 39 of 56 weekend routes, which would impact about 25 percent of weekend riders, according to AC Transit officials.

"We are glad that we are able to put this behind us," Greene said. "But we are not out of the woods yet. We are dependent on revenues that are down."

Hudson added she was glad negotiations were over for the next three years, but was still concerned about possible future cuts.

"I don't know where it is going," she said. "We took a wage cut and AC transit has the opportunity to do with it what they like - those scheduled service cuts in December were going to strand minority communities, and they didn't care."

"People are still transit-dependent and need service, and drivers still need to maintain decent working conditions and a decent living for their families. We are going to continue to fight for them."

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