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Striking Santa Cruz Metro bus drivers approve contract

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  • 11/1 Santa Cruz Sentinel
    Published Tuesday, November 1, 2005, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel It s a deal: Striking drivers approve contract, buses to roll Thursday By Genevieve Bookwalter
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2005
      Published Tuesday, November 1, 2005, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

      It's a deal: Striking drivers approve contract, buses to roll Thursday

      By Genevieve Bookwalter

      SANTA CRUZ -- County bus drivers voted Monday to end their 35-day
      strike, approving a tentative three-year contract and making way for
      buses to roll again beginning Thursday.

      Although drivers for the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District did
      not get all they wanted, most expressed elation the ordeal was over.

      "The best thing for us is we can go back to serving our customers,"
      said Gary Blair, 58, who has been driving for 21 years.

      The vote was 108-14 to accept the tentative contract and return to
      work. About 145 drivers are represented by United Transportation
      Union Local 23.

      The drivers had been pushing for higher wages, lower medical premiums
      and help with pension costs.

      These demands were met at the expense of safe driving bonuses,
      vacation time accumulated while working overtime hours and some
      general leave -- a month off without pay but with benefits.

      Also, higher wages will only happen when tax revenues grow more than 3
      percent each year, according to the tentative contract.

      "We all know it wasn't a win-win contract, but it's one we can live
      with," said driver's union chairwoman Bonnie Morr.

      Metro General Manager Les White said the deal was made within the bus
      district's financial parameters.

      "I'm very pleased. I think it's good to have this thing done and that
      it's good to have the buses back on the road and start serving the
      community again," White said.

      The Metro board approved the tentative contract Sunday night but must
      give it a final nod Wednesday.

      Drivers walked off the job Sept. 27 after the board vetoed a tentative
      contract agreement that would have kept buses rolling through June 30.

      Drivers said they would not return without a three-year contract.

      Metro directors cited a $1.4 million deficit and said there was only
      so much they could give.

      Normally 37 routes run from Davenport to Watsonville, up San Lorenzo
      Valley and to San Jose. The buses serve about 23,000 daily riders.
      Buses should be on the road Thursday, after the district completes
      inspections and maintenance.

      After Monday's vote, driver Doug Grosjean, 56, said he was "savoring
      this moment."

      A driver for 21 years, "It's been a long hard battle," Grosjean said,
      "a rather formidable foe and some ultimate pride in the solidarity of
      this group of people."


      Contact Genevieve Bookwalterat gbookwalter@...


      Details of the Deal

      As Metro drivers reach a contract and end their 35-day strike, both
      sides say they compromised.

      * Drivers traded benefits like safety bonuses, baby bonuses and
      optional 32-hour work weeks to pay for lower medical premiums and help
      with retirement costs.

      * General leave -- an optional month off without pay but with benefits
      -- was reduced from two to five drivers every month to one to three
      drivers, eight months of the year. In return, family medical premiums
      dropped from more than $400 a month in the old contract to $116.46.

      * Drivers compromised on vacation days, and instead of accumulating
      time off by the hour -- meaning those who work overtime receive more
      vacation -- all drivers will receive standard time off based on
      40-hour weeks. The money saved will help pay for increased pension
      costs.

      * Drivers will receive no raise this year, and for the next two years
      wages will be tied to district income. Drivers will receive pay
      raises only if district sales tax revenue grows more than 3 percent from
      2005-06. The effect will be cumulative, meaning revenue must increase
      6 percent after two years for drivers to qualify in 2007-08.

      * Instead of waiving a state-required lunch break, as originally
      planned, drivers decided to keep it and drop lawsuits and legal
      charges filed during the strike against the district. In return, the
      district agreed to pay each driver $1,000 instead of penalty pay they
      could have owed for beginning the breaks in mid-September instead of
      Aug. 1.


      SOURCES: United Transportation Union Local 23 and Santa Cruz
      Metropolitan Transit District.
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