OAKLAND (KCBS) – AC Transit has reached a tentative contract agreement with its drivers and mechanics, a spokesman announced Friday, just days before the 60-day cooling off period ordered by a judge was to expire.
The transit agency has not made the terms of the deal public, but spokesman Clarence Johnson wrote in a statement that the tentative agreement would be presented to the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 “in the coming days.”
A statement from ATU Local 192 released Friday evening said the union plans to meet with members on Saturday.
“We expect to schedule a ratification vote before year’s end,” union president Yvonne Williams said in the statement.
Williams said the agreement answered members’ concerns about family medical costs, but the union declined to give specific details until the rank-and-file have seen the contract.
According to Williams, AC Transit workers plan to continue working through the holiday week.
The rank-and-file of ATU have voted down two other tentative agreements reached by negotiators since their contract expired on June 30. Members said safety was not adequately addressed, and they did not want to start paying for health benefits.
Healthcare premiums and the agency’s push for modernization dominated negotiation sessions during the final two weeks of the cooling off period, Greg Harper, president of AC Transit’s board of directors said before the agreement was announced.
“Benefits, pensions and healthcare and everything, are so expensive that it’s hard to give drivers what they really deserve for working,” Harper said just hours before the tentative agreement was announced.
It’s unclear whether the latest deal would change the ATU’s plan to file an unfair labor practices lawsuit over recently imposed changes in routes and upgraded service that the union claims violated the terms of the cooling off period.
AC Transit used computerized scheduling to assign hours for those routes, bypassing the drivers committee that has traditionally given input on staffing decisions.
Harper said the upsides of modernizing the system, such as the NextBus system that provides real time bus information, has meant greater accountability to riders that now know exactly how punctual, or late, drivers are.
“We want riders to know when their next bus is coming, but it also means that riders know how good or bad the service is and they let us know it and we have to be able to respond,” he said.
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