February 2, 2011

SORTA rejects fact-finder's recs for labor contract

Tuesday, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) board of trustees rejected the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) fact-finder's recommendations related to a new three-year labor contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627.

The current labor contract expired on January 31, with Metro's 676 union bus operators, maintenance and support employees continuing to work under the terms of the old contract at this point. It is SORTA's intent to resume negotiations.

The SORTA board cited the following reasons for its rejection of the SERB fact finder's report and recommendations:

  • $5 million in wage increases: Wage increases of 2 percent per year alone would total almost $5 million in the next three years.
  • Lack of clarity on health insurance: The terms of the health insurance provision were not clearly stated, leaving too much room for interpretation. Health insurance plan design and whether money was to be deposited into employee health savings accounts were not addressed.
  • Overall cost impacts: If the highest cost interpretation of the health insurance provision were used, the cost of the contract would exceed $2.6 million in 2011 and increase to $6.3 million in 2013.

To fund the SERB fact-finder's recommendation, emergency cost reductions would have occurred, including the elimination of all Metro Sunday service and a 38 percent reduction in Saturday service, beginning in June 2011, according to SORTA. This would have meant loss of jobs and a service reduction that would have resulted in providing one million fewer rides in the last seven months of the year.

"We value our employees, who provide a critical service to the community," said Terry Garcia Crews, Metro's CEO. "It is our hope that ATU Local 627 will return to the bargaining table with us to forge a mutually acceptable contract."

In late December 2010, the City of Cincinnati unilaterally reduced funding to SORTA, creating a $1 million budget deficit for SORTA in 2011. Taking both the city's action and the fact finder's recommendations into account, SORTA projects that it would face a growing deficit in its operating and capital budgets in 2012, culminating in a $47 million deficit by 2013.

SORTA is a political sub-division of the State of Ohio, which operates Metro and Access public transportation services. Metro and Access provide about 19 million rides per year in Greater Cincinnati.

 

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