MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Transit System officials are asking that members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, the Milwaukee County bus drivers union, vote again on a new contract. MCTS officials say they will remove a provision in the current contract being offered regarding part-time drivers.
Local 998 members on Monday, October 5th voted to REJECT the latest contract being offered by Milwaukee County. Union leaders say the vote was 92% to reject the proposed contract -- and authorize a "work action," if necessary, as determined by union leaders.
Details of the contract (according to MCTS):
- Quarterly cost of living (COLA) increases without a cap (1% to 2% a year)
- On top of COLA increase, a ½% pay increase when contract is ratified
- Another 1% pay increase on April 1, 2016
- Senior mechanics will also receive an additional $.25 an hour raise
Slight increase in health care costs
- Monthly premiums would increase:
- Individual plans – from $95 a month (2015) to an estimated $102 a month (2016) and $117 a month (2017)
- Family plans – from $246 a month (2015) to an estimated $266 a month (2016) and $306 a month (2017)
- No change to deductibles in 2016 and a deductible increase in 2017 from $500 to $750 (individual plan)
- MCTS will pay 100% of health costs after deductibles are met
- MCTS proposes no more than 45 part-time drivers
- No full-time driver will be laid off and replaced with a part-time driver
As union members cast their votes on Monday, there were sticking points up to the very end.
"There are way too many part-time workers," Donnell Shorter, MCTS body mechanic said.
"My members realize, they are not buying into their crap," Local 998 President James Macon said. "They want to give (the part-time drivers) 20 hours, and then they can volunteer to work as many hours as they want to."
MCTS officials said part-timers would not work more than full-time operators who are guaranteed 30 to 40 hours per week. They also wouldn't pay into or receive a pension.
Now, MCTS officials say they would like to remove the part-time provision from the contract "in the issue of resolving this issue quickly" and coming to an agreement on a contract "for the benefit of transit riders."
A letter has been issued to Macon from MCTS Managing Director Dan Boehm -- asking that union members vote again on the contract.
The letter states in part:
"We heard you clearly that the most important issue to you is the number of part-time drivers proposed in the contract. In consultation with County Executive Chris Abele and DOT Director Brian Dranzik and because you have stated that this is the issue that is standing between us on finalizing this contract, we would like to remove the part-time provision from the contract in the interest of resolving this issue quickly for the benefit of the transit riders. While it won't be easy, because this is a top priority for you, MCTS will find a way to find it in our budget. MCTS will do this in addition to maintaining the contract provisions that call for a salary increase on top of a cost-of-living adjustment."
CLICK HERE to read the complete letter.
FOX6 News spoke with Local 998 President James Macon after obtaining this letter.
"We don't negotiate through email. We negotiate at the table. I have no faith in what the County Executive or Dan Boehm said. All we've been doing is getting lip service from them. We want it in writing at the table. I'm standing by what we said before. We will negotiate, and if we can't negotiate, let's go to arbitration. And I'm sticking to it and not backing off of it. I cannot trust lip service. This company has sent propaganda to my members, lying about what I supposedly have said. I don’t negotiate thru email. I negotiate at the table. So that’s my stance," Macon said.
Macon said following the union vote on Monday that the next step was arbitration, with Macon indicating he's already filed the paperwork to begin that process.
An inability to reach a contract agreement led to a three-day strike during Summerfest back in July. MCTS buses were out of service for 72 hours, as bus drivers worked the picket lines.
Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this story.