Tensions rose between the Tompkins County Area Transit Board of Directors and the United Auto Workers local 2300 union last Thursday after the union rejected terms in the board’s latest work contract.
The TCAT board met with UAW representatives last week to negotiate the terms of its three-year contract. The two key issues were a “me too” clause, which would give workers a pay increase equivalent to the managers’, and the health insurance plan, which was changed due to budget cuts. The UAW presented the proposal to its members, but it was
voted down 76-9 after three months of negotiations.
A federal mediator is attempting to reach an agreement between the parties, who are expected to meet again within the next few weeks. At this time, the union has had no discussion of a strike.
The UAW has said the agreement was voted down because TCAT rejected the union’s proposed “me too” clause.
UAW President Jack Kaminsky said it is unclear to union members why TCAT rejected the clause.
“They’re already on the record saying that there’s a wage freeze for the management team,” he said. “If that’s a fact, then the ‘me too’ clause would become a non-issue.”
TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte said the clause is too difficult to comply with.
“You have two separate sets of employees under different work parameters,” he said. “It was a very odd request, and we just simply couldn’t be constrained by that.”
Meanwhile, the debate over health insurance was settled. Due to budget cuts, TCAT was unable to offer the same insurance plan as in previous years. The new plan, which is $1.42 million as opposed to last year’s $1.39 million, offers dual options for insurance. If employees choose the cheaper plan, which gives less coverage, remaining funds will be made available for wage increases.
Kaminsky said union members have accepted this change.
Though TCAT’s budget for 2012 includes a $530,000 deficit, TCAT planned to increase wages for union represented workers by $225,000. The agreement, however, was rejected.
TCAT made its decision on health insurance before an agreement was reached with the union, due to a deadline. Turcotte said the plans that were offered were based on proposals previously made by the UAW.
While most members of the UAW support the union’s efforts, some members aren’t concerned with them. TCAT driver Dwayne Lovelace said he is indifferent about the contract negotiations.
“I just come in, they give me a bus, and everything’s good,” he said. “As long as I get a paycheck, they can do what they want.”