Pierce Transit and its bus drivers’ union announced Monday that they have reached a tentative labor agreement that would freeze the pay of most employees and require workers to pick up more of their health care costs.
The proposed contract, finalized Friday after 15 months of negotiation, is subject to a vote of the union’s membership Aug. 29.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 758 represents 708 Pierce Transit bus operators, mechanics, mechanics’ supervisors, customer-service staff and some administrative staff. A majority of members who choose to cast a vote next week must approve the agreement for it to be ratified. The contract then would go to the Pierce Transit board for approval on Sept. 10.
Pierce Transit spokesman Lars Erickson said the three-year agreement does not include cost-of-living pay increases, a departure from the union’s previous contract that ended in July 2011. The new agreement with Local 758 would, however, preserve “step” increases for union members during their first 10 years with the agency.
None of the agency’s 141 nonrepresented employees has received a cost-of-living adjustment since 2009, but the workers with less than 10 years’ experience have had step increases every year except 2010.
An exact count of how many Local 758 members remain eligible for step increases was not available Monday. The number has shrunk in recent years as the agency has cut its work force by 18 percent, raising the median age of Pierce Transit to 55, Erickson said.
The proposed contract also calls for a redesign of employees’ health care plans that could lead to increased co-pays or deductibles or both.
The agency would seek a medical plan for 2013 that would shave its costs by approximately $850,000 – or $100 per employee per month – without increasing employees’ monthly premiums.
After 2013, employees would have to pay half the cost of any increase in health care coverage above 10 percent. For example, if the price of agency’s medical plan rose 15 percent in 2014, the agency would pick up 12.5 percent of the additional cost and employees would pay 2.5 percent.
The contract vote comes as Pierce Transit is gearing up for a November vote on a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase that would generate an estimated $28 million annually and allow the agency to restore some of the service it cut in the last year.
“Certainly that’s been in everybody’s mind,” union president Don McKnight said. “We want to make sure we are able to do what we’re qualified to do and get the public back the service it deserves.”
Since voters rejected a sales tax increase in 2010, Pierce Transit has slashed bus service by one-third and had its service area cut by 30 email@example.com