April 1, 2010

Cleveland RTA officials question union priorities

On Wednesday, officials of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) expressed strong disappointment over a recent union vote rejecting a proposal to save jobs.

"Our priority is to maintain both jobs and transit service," said RTA CEO/GM Joe Calabrese. "We seriously question what the Union's priorities are."

Last week, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 268, rejected the terms of a recommended agreement by a fact-finder, appointed by the State Employee Relations Board (SERB), to settle a contract dispute with RTA. The two parties have been in negotiations since before the current three-year contract expired on July 31, 2009.

Approximately 1,870 of RTA's 2,300 employees, or 81 percent, are members of the ATU, so wage concessions are unavoidable if RTA is to balance its budget. Labor costs make up 70 percent of RTA's operating expenses.

Sales tax and other revenues have declined, reducing RTA's funding by nearly $25 million in 2009. As a result of the recession and the union's unwillingness to cooperate with RTA's efforts to reduce costs, RTA will reduce services by 12 percent and lay off more than 130 employees on Sunday, April 4, according to the agency. Even with tentative signs the economy is recovering, it is likely to take six to 10 years for revenues to rise back to 2008 levels, Calabrese said.

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