1/31/08

AFSCME transit union in Ohio has other plans

For the third time, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority workers have voted down a labor contract with their employer. Bus drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers of SARTA defeated the tentative agreement 66-64 Tuesday night.

The vote was much closer than one taken earlier this month on another SARTA contract offer. While details of the contract were presented to union members on Sunday, voting took place over the course of the day Tuesday. “It’s very unfortunate,” said Teresa Thompson, SARTA planning and community outreach manager. “I’m not sure we can reach an agreement at this point.”

Thompson, a member of the SARTA negotiating team, said she thought all the union’s concerns, including the formula for calculating vacation time, had been addressed in the latest offer.

“We gave them what they asked for. Apparently, that’s not the only issue,” she said.

The 146 bus drivers, technicians, mechanics and electricians belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Ohio Council 8, Local 1880. They have been working without a contract since January 2007.

Louis Maholic, a staff representative for Local 1880, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

When the tentative agreement was announced on Friday, SARTA attorney Gust Callas called it “a good agreement for both sides. We came within our budgetary constraints.”

Callas said both sides understand the importance of continued bus service to the county.

Thompson said a strike, though not anticipated, is “always a possibility.”

As for what happens next, Thompson said, “We’ll wait to hear from them. The ball’s in their court.”

(indeonline.com)

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