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AC Transit Wants $15 Million from Drivers

An AC Transit bus in Berkeley
An AC Transit bus in Berkeley
Negotiations stumble, mirroring San Francisco's Muni woes

AC Transit wants its bus drivers to give back about $15 million.

The demand came during contract negotiations with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, whose contract with the transit district is set to expire June 30, both sides said.

“Now the time has come,” said Greg Harper, AC Transit Board Member. “If we're going to maintain service, there's no way to do it unless the drivers contribute.”

Claudia Hudson, local president and lead negotiator, said the union, which represents 1,750 drivers, mechanics and clerks can't make those kinds of cuts.

“We don't have $15 million,” she said Monday. “Our contract is, in my opinion, not fat.”

AC Transit, which serves Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is facing a $56 million budget shortfall for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, said spokesman Clarence Johnson. The district has already made drastic cuts to service twice this year.

In March, bus routes were cut by 7.8 percent to save about $9 million. Earlier this month, the AC Transit board made another 7.2 percent cut to save an estimated $11.4 million. The district has also laid off staff and last year raised fares from $1.75 to $2.00.

Negotiations between Local 192 and the district haven't gone well of late. The district called in a mediator, who met with both sides on June 8 and 9.

District negotiators want bus drivers to start contributing to health care and pensions. They also want to cut pay for spread time, which is the time spent on the job whether driving a bus or not. Currently, the district has to pay a penalty if the driver is on duty for more than 10 hours. Now the district wants to up the threshold to 11.5 hours, said Hudson. And other work rules are on the table as well. All of those proposed changes add up to about $15 million a year, both sides said.

“Right now there are so many things that the district is proposing,” said Hudson. “I consider them being a little confused.”

Although the current three-year contract is set to expire June 30, Hudson said her union is willing to extend negotiations past that date.

AC Transit spokesman Johnson said he hasn't been apprised of the contract negotiations but said that “in a general way all employees are being asked to make concessions.”

The same saga is playing out across the Bay in San Francisco, where service cuts to Muni have been followed with big demands on unions.

After an unprecedented 10 percent cut in May, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced on May 27 that he had reached a tentative agreement with the operators union to give back about $19 million. Newsom said that the deal would mean that Muni service would be restored by 2011.

But those well-laid plans went off the rails Friday when the Transport Workers Union Local 250A Transit Operators voted down the proposal.

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