7/17/07

Mass. transit union pickets for leverage

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 22, impatient with the pace of labor contract talks, picketed the office of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority at 287 Grove St. for three hours yesterday. The informational picket went up the day before talks were to resume today for a pact to replace a one-year contract that would have expired June 30 except for an agreement to extend it for 30 days. The union members carried signs such as "No More Concessions," "A Living Wage Is Only Fair" and "Let's Talk Not Walk."

Phil Donahue, a bus driver of nine years, said he believes there will be "strong participation by the rank and file" if a strike is called. But he said he hopes it won’t be necessary because "nobody makes out in a strike - not the employees, not the public, and not the management."

The contract extension expires July 29, but WRTA Administrator Stephen F. O'Neil has said he hopes another extension would be approved if the two sides do not agree by then. Talks began in March, but Local 22 Business Agent Christopher W. Bruce accused management of "surface bargaining," which he said is a failure to engage in the give and take necessary in labor negotiations.

RTA Services General Manager John F. Carney said yesterday, "I believe we're going to offer the union an offer that's a fair offer" in today's negotiations. Neither Local 22 nor RTA Transit Services, which has the management contract to operate the transit authority buses, has given details of the negotiations.

However, union officials said previously that the company wants to increase the employee contribution to the health insurance plan from 11 percent of the premium to 20 percent while offering a pay raise that the union does not consider to be adequate.

Mr. Carney said the pickets conducted themselves professionally yesterday. "We're very proud of them," he said of the company's employees.

With the picket conducted during the work hours of noon to 3 p.m., Mr. Bruce said about 25 union members at a time carried signs, involving between a third and half of the 155 Local 22 members. Also there was Ross Kiely, business agent for Springfield's ATU Local 448, which brought in three busloads of union members during Local 22's strike three years ago.

(telegram.com)

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