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TARC Union members vote 'no' to contract proposal from employer

The Amalgamated Transit Union says it asked for a 6% pay increase to all workers followed by a 4% increase the last two years of the contract.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The union representing TARC employees looking to get better wages says its executive board has denied the company's final contract offer.

Friday, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1447 allowed for its members to cast an official vote. For the members who did participate, 97% of them voted no to TARC's proposed compensation package.

TARC officials say the package, which was worth more than $48.8 million, included a 3% increase to Maintenance and Radio workers, 2.5% increase to Operators and a 1% increase for technicians.

A spokesperson said the package is $5 million more than the company's previous offer. It also came with a $250 bonus every quarter in which a union employee has perfect attendance, adding up to an annual $1,000.

The union asked for an even 6% increase for all workers upfront, then a 4% increase the last two years of the contract.

"If I work in a certain department, I am shown less value if I was not getting the same amount as my fellow co-worker. And so that in itself, you know, it's insulting," Union President Lillian Brents said.

She said this is important because the disparities split amounts could cause are a big issue for them.

"They're not equal, you have less than five women working in those departments. That gets the increase," Brents said. "You'll never think that you will be having to deal with somebody shooting at a bus, you never think that you have to deal with a global pandemic that will happen."

TARC officials told WHAS11 that everything included - health, pension and other benefits - currently adds up to over $100,000 per year for drivers, something they said is very attractive.

TARC Director of Marketing and Communications Jenny Recktenwald said while it was disappointing to learn about the rejection, they cannot "spend more than has been allocated" within the approved budget.

Here's what else was in TARC’s rejected offer:

  • A 9% hourly wage increase for mechanics over the life of the contract, bringing the top hourly wage to $29.30
  • A 7.5% hourly wage increase for coach operators over the life of the contract, bringing the top hourly wage to $28.14
  • An attendance bonus of $250 per quarter for employees with perfect attendance (excluding vacation, bereavement and military leave)
  • Overtime pay remains consistent at one and one-half times the straight time basic rate of pay per the current contract language
  • Keeping in place 95% coverage of health, dental and vision benefits, including for the ATU President
  • Creating a mechanic master technician position with an hourly wage of up to $37.00
  • Employees will begin accruing and can begin using sick pay on a monthly basis rather than annually, beginning September 1, 2023
  • Adding a Juneteenth paid holiday for all employees and a Veterans Day paid holiday for spouses of military personnel on active duty (veterans already receive this paid holiday)
  • Active duty military personnel will be compensated throughout the entirety of their military leave
  • Implementing an updated safety plan through the existing TARC Safety Committee, which currently comprises equal TARC management and Union representation, as outlined by the FTA based on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requirements
  • Increasing the annual uniform allowance to $450, increasing the annual tool allowance for maintenance employees to $500 and increasing the annual safety shoe allowance for maintenance employees to $250
  • Increasing coach operator and mechanic trainer pay from $1.45 to $3.00 per hour (in addition to regular hourly wage)

Read TARC's full statement below:

It was disappointing to learn that Union employees rejected TARC’s latest proposal. We understand that everyone would like to make more money, but as we have explained again and again, TARC must operate within its approved budget and simply cannot spend more than has been allocated. At the wage increases Union leaders are demanding, TARC would exceed its budget and be forced to cease or drastically reduce operations within the next three years.

That being said, TARC made an attractive offer to the Union. The total value of the proposed compensation package was $48.8 million for Union employees in the first year alone. The average TARC bus driver currently earns more than $54,000 per year, with a total compensation package of health, pension, and other benefits of over $100,000. That amount does not include the proposed pay increase or overtime pay. TARC’s proposed pay increase, bonus, and incentives provide Union employees with even greater spending and saving power.

We believe TARC is an excellent place to start and continue a career. More than 60% of our employees have been with TARC for five or more years. About 100 employees have been with TARC for at least 20 years. That’s because we offer good wages, benefits, retirement, and support for our employees.

We will work with Union leaders to determine next steps.

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