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Rail News: Passenger Rail

MTA labor talks lead to one-day strike reprieve


When Los Angeles bus and train riders went to sleep last night, they didn’t know if public transportation would be operating in the morning. But thanks to a last-minute decision to delay a transit-strike deadline, their ride was secure — at least for one more day.

At 12:10 a.m., Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and United Transportation Union (UTU) negotiators announced that the deadline had been extended to 12:01 a.m. Sept. 16.

MTA began negotiations in April with its unions, UTU, representing 4,300 bus and rail operators; Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) , representing 650 clerical workers; and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) , representing 1,860 mechanics. After their contracts expired June 30, Gov. Gray Davis imposed a 60-day cooling-off period, which expired Sept. 4. After continuing negotiations failed to produce any contract, UTU officials announced their intent to strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Negotiations continued late into the night, coming to a head with MTA agreeing to drop the 4/10 issue that neither side appeared willing to compromise on. Under the old contract, bus drivers would work eight hours split over a 10-hour span, five days a week. About 15 percent of the drivers would work a full 10 hours, including two hours at overtime pay.

MTA officials wanted to change UTU’s contract to having drivers work four days a week, with 10-hour shifts split over a 12-hour span. UTU declined that offer, and the line was drawn in the sand, neither side willing to budge.

Finally, MTA backed down.

"In their infinite wisdom, the board decided to drop this," says Gary Wosk, MTA spokesperson. "Now the ball’s in the union’s court."

In dropping 4/10 — and the $2 million it would have saved in overtime pay annually — MTA is looking for a comparable concession from UTU.

"It would have to be equivalent to that reduction in hourly operating cost," says Wosk.

MTA and UTU negotiators planned to return to contract talks at 10 a.m. (PDT). Negotiations with ATC and TCU are scheduled to resume Sept. 19.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/15/2000