Green Buses Roll, But Agreement Still Needs Union Ratification
Thousands of mass-transit commuters in Rockaway and Broad Channel got good news Wednesday evening when the Bloomberg administration and the Amalgamated Transit Union announced a tentative settlement in the 10-day private bus strike.
“I’m pleased that we have reached an agreement with the ATU,” said Mayor Bloomberg, who added the MTA takeover of the private buses would now move forward. “It’s been a tough week-and-a-half for those who rely on these buses, but this agreement and the commitment from the ATU not to oppose the MTA transfer will provide better service in the future for the riders and will prevent future disruptive strikes.”
The new agreement adds the money necessary to make the union’s Health and Benefits Fund solvent, one of the major issues that forced the strike, according to the union.
Union members will also receive a lump sum payment of $1,000 in back pay for 2003 and a retroactive 3 percent raise for 2004. Once the takeover is complete, Green Bus and Command will come under the control of the MTA, which will be responsible for negotiating all contracts.
While the union and the city seemed miles apart on Tuesday, Tom DeMarinis, the Financial Secretary of 1179 discussed the settlement with The Wave at press time.
“We spoke with the owners and called Commissioner John Hanley [of the Office of Labor Relations],” said De Marinis. “[The city] made a bit different offer.”
DeMarinis said the new agreement protects workers wages and pensions and does not circumvent a 1975 agreement with the city, as the union feared would happen if payment was deferred until the takeover.
The unions will hold a ratification meeting on January 28. At that time, union officials are expected to detail the agreement to their membership.
The 800 members of the two locals voted on December 19 and 20 to give union leaders authorization to call a strike. A three-day strike followed.
A meeting in late December produced few results, as did the meeting on January 13. At that time, union leaders walked out of talks with the city’s Office of Labor Relations when, they said, a wage package that called for the deferment of wages was taken off the table. The city maintained that the package remained part of the negotiations.
During the strike, riders had to endure frigid weather with temperatures that didn’t go higher than 18 degrees on Tuesday and didn’t get out of the 20’s on Wednesday.
M. Holder of Far Rockaway and Anna Blake (a student at Beach Channel High School) both talked about the inconvenience the strike caused them.
Each needed to leave earlier in the morning and do extra walking to take the train.
“It’s not fair to the passengers,” Blake told The Wave as she stood on a freezing Board Channel train platform Tuesday night.
It cost Holder, who usually rides both the Q22 and Q35, more money.
“They should get it over with and give the bus drivers what they want so people can get on,” she said.
Getting on is exactly what the mayor hopes will happen.
“The ridership didn’t win here – which is the public, which is the city – and the employees did not win, the owner didn’t win,” the mayor told the press Wednesday. “There were no winners here in the last week and a half. Everybody suffered, but the important thing is it’s over. Let’s get back to work.”
For Councilman John Liu (the council’s Transportation Committee chair) getting back to work means finishing the MTA takeover.
“Three deadlines have already been missed,” said Liu in a statement. “The mayor needs to get it all done by his new deadline – April 30, 2005.”