Rapid, transit union agree to three-year contract
Pact includes raises and establishes a new defined contribution retirement plan.
The Interurban Transit Partnership Board reached an agreement on a new three-year contract with the labor union representing the public transportation system’s bus operators and maintenance workers.
The Rapid Board of Directors ratified the agreement during its monthly meeting. That ratification followed the acceptance of the proposed agreement by voting members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 836, the union representing Rapid employees, on Dec. 7.
“We have worked hard to craft a contract that is beneficial to our employees, maintains an outstanding level of service to our customers and continues The Rapid’s legacy of responsible fiscal stewardship,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid.
The contract includes a 3 percent pay raise for all bus operators and a 3.5 percent raise for all maintenance employees in the first year of the agreement. Both groups will receive annual increases of 2 percent in the following two years of the contract. The Rapid also will pay 80 percent of all health insurance premiums for union workers and will establish a new defined contribution retirement plan. The retirement plan will replace the existing pension plan and will establish a sustainable fiscal approach for the workers’ retirement fund and the transit organization.
The previous labor agreement expired in July 2015, at which point, workers were not able to receive wage increases or be compensated for increases in health care costs.
The 2½ years between the expiration of the old agreement and the finalization of the new agreement were spent on negotiations between the board and ATUGR. The two parties met periodically since December 2014 on a new agreement, and a tentative deal was made at the end of November.
One of the objects of negotiation was changing the agreement’s defined benefit retirement plan to a defined contribution retirement plan.
“The board wanted to change the defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan because the defined benefit plan was creating large liabilities,” Varga said. “There was going to be more money that would be put into the contribution plan.”
The board also argued more money would be contributed to union employees under the defined contribution plan. The union eventually agreed to the board’s decision.
The board also negotiated with ATUGR to change daily overtime to weekly overtime, effective August 2020.
“The union wanted to retain daily overtime that they were collecting above and beyond what a 40-hour week would provide,” Varga said. “The board thought the current method cost more and wanted to restrict overtime costs.”
The new contract will take effect upon final execution of the agreement between both parties.
“I’m really pleased that both the union and the board have ratified the contract. All along, we want to help our employees,” Varga said. “They’re really hard workers, and we want to provide them with payment and health care compensation.”