Contract talks halt, CAT gives union an ultimatum - abc27 WHTM

Contract talks halt, CAT gives union an ultimatum

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For more than a week, CAT has canceled routes daily. On Tuesday, three routes were canceled for the morning, but returned to service by the afternoon.

Last Thursday, CAT's board met and decided that negotiations would resume with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1436. On Monday evening, CAT issued an ultimatum to drivers who have been working without a contract since last July: talks will only resume when they show up for work.

CAT continues to claim the bus driver shortage is related to the labor dispute. General Manager Bill Jones said drivers are not showing up for work, calling out sick, and refuse to work overtime.

Jones pointed the finger at union leadership and said they are intimidating drivers.

ATU Local 1436 president John Keller denied those claims and said the shortage reveals the need for CAT to hire more drivers and alleviate the dependence on the drivers' willingness to work overtime.

This issue is not without collateral damage. The latest round of frozen talks is causing passengers to get heated.

"I'm just upset," said one woman. "Every time you turn around you see not in service, not in service. It should come to an agreement somewhere. It's been going on too long now."

Stan Washington said cancellations and delays are not only an inconvenience, but also harmful to people's health.

"Slowness, waiting longer, especially on cold days like we have been, it's been rough," he said.

While the union and CAT management differ on the reason for the driver shortage, they also disagree on proper compensation.

Keller said he originally proposed a four-percent increase last year when talks began, but both sides reached an impasse and decided in December to enter into binding arbitration.

Keller said their latest proposal is a two-percent pay increase. Currently, max driver wages are $24.80 an hour. New drivers can make 70 percent of that wage and make the max wage in three years.

If accepted, the new hike would increase pay $25.30 an hour, about $52,000 a year.

Given there are 86 full-time drivers and seven part-time drivers, Jones previously said that is at least $1,000 per driver. He said with benefits included, that figure adds several thousand dollars.

He said drivers are the third-highest paid in Pennsylvania and make $5 an hour more than other midstate transit operators.

Washington said he empathizes with union members.

"Economy is up ... big bosses making money," he said. "Why can't we make a little bit of that?"

Until the labor issues can be worked out, passengers worry they will continue to be the collateral damage. Pepsi Hanes said she relies on the bus to get to work and her doctor appointments.

"Basically, they just need to make up their mind, figure out what the (expletive) they're going to do," she said." Figure it out. Everybody's late on where they need to go."


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