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News / Clark County News

C-Tran approves new labor contract with drivers

Five-year deal took two years to negotiate

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published: September 9, 2014, 5:00pm

The C-Tran Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a new labor contract with its largest employee group, ending a negotiation process that lasted two years.

The five-year deal grants C-Tran’s fixed-route bus and paratransit operators, represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, pay raises retroactive to 2012. Drivers will receive a 2 percent wage increase effective Sept. 1, 2012, a 2.4 percent increase for 2013, and a 2.5 percent increase that took effect this month. Wages for 2015 and 2016 will be negotiated at a later date, according to a memo given to C-Tran board members.

The new agreement applies from Sept. 1, 2012, through Aug. 31, 2017. Drivers had been working under the terms of the last labor contract that expired in 2012.

Under the old contract, represented fixed-route operators earned anywhere from $18.44 to $24.27 per hour, or about $38,400 to $50,500 annually based on a 40-hour workweek. Paratransit drivers earn about $3 per hour less. The entire bargaining unit represents about 247 C-Tran employees, according to the agency.

The C-Tran board approved the new contract by a 6-1 vote after little discussion. The only “no” vote came from Clark County Commissioner David Madore, who said he wasn’t necessarily against the contract but wanted to see the full agreement before approving it.

The deal was approved by 93 percent of the ATU members who voted on it last month, said Scott Miller, an ATU executive board officer and C-Tran bus driver.

The new contract also includes a new “longevity pay” provision granting an extra bump in pay to drivers who have worked for C-Tran for at least 15 years. That bump begins at 15 cents per hour, gradually increasing to 60 cents per hour for drivers with 30 or more years with the agency.

Miller said the union believes the pay increases spelled out in the contract are reasonable given the cost of living, comparable pay rates elsewhere and C-Tran’s relatively healthy reserves. But much of the two-year negotiation process centered around medical benefits, he said.

Among the new provisions in the contract is an agencywide Health Care Joint Committee that C-Tran staff and management will participate in to keep costs down. The two sides will work together as part of that process, Miller said.

The operators’ new labor agreement isn’t the first to involve a lengthy bargaining process. The 2012 contract was settled by an arbitration panel after negotiations reached an impasse.

C-Tran characterized the new deal as a compromise.

“Although neither side got all of what they wanted in the negotiation, we believe that both sides are pleased that an agreement was reached and we did not have to submit to the time, expense and uncertainty of having arbitration decide the terms for us,” Katy Belokonny, C-Tran’s community outreach coordinator, wrote in an email.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter