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AC Transit, bus drivers' union reach contract agreement

Weekend service cuts called off because of pact

The arbitration panel in the AC Transit labor negotiation has reached a decision between the transit district and the union representing its 1,750 bus drivers and mechanics for a new three-year contract.

The decision was reached in time to halt the weekend service cuts planned for December as part of a cost reduction program by the transit agency.

The binding decision calls for contributions from the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 to their health and benefit plans, and work rule and holiday changes. Negotiators said the agreement will help the district reduce its protected deficit by approximately $38 million over the term of the contract.

"There are no winners or losers in this arbitration," said Interim General Manager Mary King. "Both AC Transit and the union focused on what is best for the riders and taxpayers of this district and what is in the long-term interest of maintaining public transit for the people we serve."

King said the conclusion of its labor negotiations is just one of many steps the transit district must take to make comprehensive changes in the face of dwindling federal and state funding, rising costs and a financially challenged ridership and Bay Area economy.

"We are not out of the woods yet when it comes to having sustainable long-term financial stability," she said. "In all probability cuts will still have to be made sometime in 2011. But this decision stalls the need for immediate cuts in December allowing time to make sure that any future service adjustments add to the reliability, efficiency and sustainability of our service."

"I want to take this moment to thank our riders, who have stuck with us through this difficult period," she added. "And, I want to extend my thanks to the union and all of our employees after this difficult period in our history. We still face many challenges, but I hope that we can face them together now, as a united front, to serve the people of our district."

The previous contract between the union and AC Transit expired June 30 after months of negotiations and no conclusion. The district then imposed a contract on July 18 which was challenged by the union in court. The court sent both sides to binding arbitration.

Since March, the district has implemented two service cuts. These cuts included the reorganization of the district's bus system and a series of reductions in bus service to reduce the system's projected deficit. A new round of service cuts which would have reduced a number of weekend service lines was planned for December. But the new three-year contract with the drivers' union eliminates the need for the December action.

Past actions by the district to save money included:

• Rider Fare Hikes: Local riders are paying more due to the 25 cents per trip fare increase and $10 increase in the price of a monthly pass. Transbay riders are paying more due to the 50 cents per trip fare increase and $16.50 increase in the price of a monthly pass. Youth, senior and disabled riders are paying more due to the 15 cents per trip local fare increase and 30 cents Transbay increase.

• Service Cuts: Riders also had bus service reduced in March by 7.8% or $10.3 million in service hours; a second round of service cuts in October that further reduced service by 7.2% or $11.4 million in service hours.

• Management Cuts: Eliminated more than 70 general and administrative staff positions. In addition, a third of its executive staff was eliminated --including cutting four executive management staffers. And, the use of district vehicles has been curtailed and management leave benefits canceled. Collectively, this has cut costs $9.2 million.

• Reduced Spending: The board of directors cut its salary by 5%, cut travel by 50%, and eliminated a special travel account for transit advocacy.

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