New hires will receive 60 percent of the top pay determined in the contract's second year.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Western Reserve Transit Authority approved a new three-year contract for bus drivers that includes a 3 percent wage increase the first year and creation of a two-tier wage scale.
The WRTA board approved the contract Thursday after WRTA drivers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union ratified the agreement Monday. WRTA and the ATU reached a tentative agreement in June.
The vote was 25-5 in favor of the new pact, with 35 of 58 members attending the meeting, ATU President John Remias said. Five members at Monday's meeting did not cast ballots, he said. He also said some drivers were on vacation Monday and others were driving their bus routes.
Remias said presenting the contract to membership for ratification took some time because he had to have approval from the international ATU for the two-tier wage scale and the length of time it would take new hires to reach top pay. He said five years was the maximum period the international union would allow.
Under the new contract, operators who start full-time in the second year of the three-year contract will be paid 60 percent of the top wage set at that time. They will then receive pay increases to reach top pay in five years.
Remias said new operators drive with supervision, then work part-time until full-time positions are available.
Marianne Vaughn, secretary-treasurer, said the operators will be paid $17.60 per hour under the new contract, up from $17.09 per hour. She said wage reopeners come in the second and third years of the pact, and the pay for new hires will be set based on the top pay agreed upon in the second year.
Vaughn said there were minor changes in attendance policies and no change to health care benefits packages.
Jim Ferraro, executive director, said Plaza Donuts, a longtime tenant at Federal Station, agreed to a new five-year lease. He said the arrangement has been beneficial both for WRTA and Plaza Donuts, with WRTA providing space in a high-traffic area, and Plaza Donuts offering their products to riders waiting for buses.
Ferraro noted ridership was down slightly in June, likely partly due to fare increases. Ferraro commended drivers for working with riders while they adjust to fare increases implemented June 1. He said some people tried to board buses and pay the lower fares, unprepared to pay the higher cost.
Ferraro said people will adjust to the increase and he believes most people understand the need for it. In the meantime, he said, "We're not going to leave people standing in the street because they're 10 cents short," he said.