Toledo ATU 1385 RTA workers threaten strike over attack on healthcare benefits and for better working conditions

Toledo ATU 1385 RTA workers threaten strike over attack on healthcare benefits and for better working conditions
http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/local/rta-workers-threaten-strike/VD...
Cornelius Frolik
Staff Writer
6:36 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 Dayton

DAYTON

A couple dozen Greater Dayton RTA workers protest outside of the Montgomery County Administration building on Tuesday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The threat of a strike looms over a contract dispute between Greater Dayton RTA union workers and the agency’s executive leadership.

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1385 object to proposed changes to their health care plans and have called for “better” working conditions and raises.

The union does not want to strike but members may decide it is necessary because RTA leadership has not meaningfully budged on its offer and has been unwilling to try to resolve the dispute in binding arbitration, said Glenn Salyer, president of the ATU Local 1385

“To have 10,000 people per day without bus service is something we do not want,” he said. “But if the members get to the point when they say, ‘Enough is enough,’ then they won’t be driving these buses.”

However, RTA Executive Director Mark Donaghy said the union has refused to come to the negotiation table and has rejected a variety of concessions the agency has offered. RTA management will withdraw its final offer on Nov. 1.

“They are holding out and being unreasonable and I think the offer we have on the table is fair,” Donaghy said.

RTA workers have not gone on strike in decades.

On Tuesday, about two dozen RTA workers carried union signs and chanted outside of the Montgomery County Administration building.

Four union members spoke during the public comment portion of the county commission meeting in opposition to the RTA’s contract offer. The county commission appoints the majority of the RTA’s board of trustees.

“I make less than what I made when I came in this job because of insurance and everything,” said Kathie Nash, who is a 15-year veteran Project Mobility driver with the RTA.

Six days ago, union members visited the Dayton City Commission meeting to share their concerns. Dayton appoints two members of the board.

The ATU Local 1385 has been without a contract since April 2015 and its members have not had a raise since April 2014, Salyer said. The union represents about 270 standard bus drivers, 100 Project Mobility drivers and 120 maintenance staff.

Union members want better working conditions, including scheduled restroom breaks, and they want higher wage increases, Salyer said.

But the biggest point of contention is changes to workers’ health care plans that will increase how much they pay.

“We have just been told that our insurance will be $9,500 per year for a family plan,” Salyer said, noting that some new drivers make $12.50 per hour.

Salyer said RTA’s management should agree to binding arbitration if they truly believe their offer is fair. He said sales tax receipts are up considerably, and the agency’s budget is in good shape.

But Donaghy said the RTA already has participated in mediation and fact-finding and arbitration would be needlessly expensive and unreasonable.

He said the RTA has withdrawn many of its proposals and has agreed to a variety of concessions but the union has refused to work with executive leadership.

Donaghy said RTA is moving to a high-deductible plan that will increase costs to employees, but the agency’s costs related to health insurance claims rose more than 30 percent in 2015 and another 25 percent in 2016.

The RTA had no option but to change the plan to try to control costs, he said.

The union should come to the table to work out a fair agreement instead of holding protests and threatening to strike, which would harm the community, he said.

“I hope there’s a zero chance — I think that would be a mistake for them and certainly a mistake for our community to try to hold the community hostage to try to achieve their demands,” Donaghy said.