MCTS, bus drivers union reach tentative agreement on 3-year contract

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MILWAUKEE -- After months of negotiations and even a brief strike, officials with Milwaukee County Transit System say they have reached a tentative agreement for a three-year contract with the bus drivers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998.

"We did come to an agreement. I think it's something my members can deal with," said President of ATU Local 998, James Macon.

Friday's agreement comes less than a month after union members rejected an offer. Union officials said their biggest problem was the proposed hiring of 45 part-time workers who wouldn't pay into the pension system.

"They want to give them 20 hours, then they can volunteer to work all the hours they want to," said Macon.

Over the summer, MCTS said the union was trying to have it both ways -- complaining about excessive overtime then opposing the hiring of part-timers.

"It's a little frustrating from our perspective when they complain about something, we say we'll try to address it with part-time operators while also saving a little bit of money, and they say no to that," said Brendan Conay, MCTS spokesman.

Union on strike

Union on strike

Negotiations went nowhere, and for three days in July, neither did the buses as the union went on strike during Summerfest. Four months later, and after the union rejected an offer, MCTS offered to remove the part-time worker provision from the contract.

Union President, James Macon, says he'll believe it when he sees it.

"All we've been doing is getting lip service. We want it in writing at the table," said Macon.

Ten days after Macon's remarks, both sides announce there's a deal. Macon says there are still other issues, like extended bathroom breaks and workman's comp claims -- but he says the union will advise workers to approve the contract.

"Right now, we signed it, we don't have to worry about it until 2018," said Macon.

Officials say the Union Bargaining Committee will recommend the contract to the membership for a ratification vote on Wednesday, October 21st.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele issued the following statement about the tentative agreement:

"After months of negotiations, I'm thrilled we were able to come to an agreement that respects our workers while still preserving the gains we've made in ensuring that our transit system is sustainable and reliable for our riders.

"This contract provides continuity and stability for drivers and riders, and I look forward to getting it signed quickly so that we can partner with ATU to find more ways to strengthen transit in Milwaukee County."

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