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PTM, Teamsters take wraps off 'secret' Sun Tran contract
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PTM, Teamsters take wraps off 'secret' Sun Tran contract

  • Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Monday, the private management of Tucson’s bus system and the Teamsters union released a contract negotiated nearly two weeks ago. The agreement shows that each Sun Tran worker received at least a 30-cent hourly raise, with many seeing pay bumps of $3-5.

Professional Transit Management and the union bowed to pressure from city leaders and reporters to release the contract details, after saying for nearly two weeks that they would keep confidential the terms of the deal that ended a 42-day strike.

Two members of the City Council called the lack of details available to them and the public "inexcusable."

The wage increases are retroactive to the Aug. 1 expiration of the previous contract. The $4.36 million deal is $1.6 million more than the proposed contract that was rejected by workers in August.

Read the document: Sun Tran contract

The settlement will mean ongoing costs of about $1.4 million annually after the two years are up, City Manager Michael Ortega said two weeks ago. That projection is about $500,000 more than what management had forecast for fiscal year 2018, he said. Sun Tran's total budget is about $103 million yearly.

The increase was offset by about $790,000 in savings due to fuel prices being lower than projected, and about $800,000 unspent because of buses not running and drivers not being paid during the strike, Ortega said.

The details

The 58-page document shows:

Drivers earning the former rate of $18.72 per hour will each receive an 80-cent raise, to the new top rate of $19.52. Drivers paid at the fourth-year rate of $15.80 are also being bumped to the top rate — a $3.72 hourly raise.

About half of Sun Tran drivers were at the top of the previous pay scale, and are getting 30-cent raises to the new top rate.

Drivers paid $14.14 will see their wages increase to $14.97, while those paid $13.30 will get a raise to $14.14. The new starting wage for drivers will be $13.30, up 30 cents.

Mechanics will also see raises: those earning $21.16 under the previous contract will be bumped to $22.96, with those formerly earning $19.13 hourly getting a $3.83 raise to the top rate. Mechanic starting pay will increase from $18.78 to $19.13 hourly.

Some fleet service technicians will see the largest percentage increases in their pay, with those who were paid $10.15 getting a $5 hourly boost to $15.25.

Part clerks will also see a significant pay bump, with those who were paid $12.02 hourly getting boosted to the new top rate of $15.25.

Each covered worker will also be paid a lump sum of $3303.37, payable within 30 days after Sept. 17, the contract indicates.

$500k net increase in ongoing cost of bus system

Ortega said that the contract means about $500,000 in ongoing costs for Sun Tran, above projections for 2018.

Ortega also proposed that workers and management split any funds they can save through instituting operational efficiencies, including suggestions from the union on ways to streamline maintenance. Half those savings could go to increase pay, with half going back into the city's general fund to offset the net budget increase of $500,000 projected under the deal.

The contract was ratified by the union with a 351-41 vote on Sept. 16.

City Councilmen Paul Cunningham and Steve Kozachik issued a joint statement two days later, calling on the contractor that runs the system, Professional Transit Management, and the union to release the entire contract.

"Taxpayers deserve to see how their hard-earned money is being spent. The terms of the settlement should have been posted online by both TransDev and the Teamsters immediately following ratification. Now, two days later, the public is still waiting," the pair wrote. "It is inexcusable for the parties to this settlement to refuse making the precise terms of the settlement public."

Teamsters negotiator Andy Marshall and PTM reps had earlier refused to release details.

"I gave my word that I wouldn't discuss it, and I'm sticking to that," Marshall said the evening the contract was approved by union members.

"Other parties want to poke at it and be pissed off; we don't want to play into that," he said in reference to the leadership of the Tucson Police Officer's Association, who've criticized the drivers' union.

TPOA members barraged the City Council last week with demands for staffing and pay increases for the Tucson Police Department.

Several Council members, including Cunningham, Kozachik and Regina Romero, have called for a review of Sun Tran, saying that the city should look at setting up a regional public transit system.

Because public employee unions can't strike under Tucson's City Charter, and federal grants are only available to transportation systems that allow full collective bargaining rights, the city contracts out the management of Sun Tran. Professional Transit Management/TransDev is a French-government-owned multinational group that runs transit in some 70 U.S. cities.

The drivers walked off the job at the beginning of August, citing safety concerns and mold issues at Sun Tran facilities, but the main sticking point in the 42-day strike was wages. Sun Tran's 530 drivers, mechanics and fuel island workers voted 363-4 vote to reject a three-year contract that included no raises for most workers. The strike began Aug. 6.

"We had no choice," Marshall said. "We were given a 'firm and final' (offer) that gave nothing over a three-year period."

"This is a victory for self-respect, a victory for collective bargaining," he said when the contract was ratified. The mold issues and security improvements were already being worked on that day by management and the city. "That shows good faith; the contract wasn't even approved yet," he said.

The city will tackle dealing with a mold problem at a Sun Tran facility, and install Plexiglass partitions on buses used on routes that drivers consider the most dangerous. Ortega said two weeks ago that he didn't know how much that would cost.

Teamsters with Local 104 and representatives of Professional Transit Management traded press releases and at least one pair of contract proposals over the six weeks of the strike, but reportedly did not met face-to-face to discuss a settlement for the first four weeks.

The week before the settlement, the Tucson City Council voted to pressure the private management company to roll the funds saved by not running most buses during the strike, as well as savings on lower-than-expected fuel costs this year, into a settlement offer with the union.

Management said they put $2.7 million more on the table, which could be allocated however the union wished. The drivers' representatives had proposed a package that would increase Sun Tran's budget by about $5.5 million.

The city spends about $30 million annually to subsidize the municipal bus system, which is added to revenues from fares. About 66,000 trips are taken each weekday when the system is running normally.

Last August, union members voted to approve a one-year contract, narrowly averting a strike. Sun Tran workers did strike in 1997 and 2001, with the latter job action requiring a federal mediator to resolve the two-week walkout.

Under last year's agreement, workers on the job more than six months and earning less than the top of the wage scale for their positions were to receive a one-time pay bump. The highest paid workers were to receive a combined 50-cent raise over six months.

Before that contract, wages had been frozen for two years by the private firm that operates Tucson's city bus system under a management contract.

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