By Denise Dick
By DENISE DICK
Members of two unions at the Western Reserve Transit Authority have new contracts with pay raises and increases in employee health-care contributions.
WRTA’s board unanimously approved the agreements Thursday with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers Local 377, which represents six service people; and with the Amalgamated Transit Union, Division No. 272, which represents the authority’s 56 drivers.
The drivers’ contract, effectively a one-year extension and a new three-year pact, calls for a 3 percent raise each year. That takes drivers to $18.13 per hour this year, $18.67 hourly beginning July 1, $19.23 hourly in 2011 and $19.81 hourly in 2012.
The new agreement also includes an increase in employees’ health insurance deductible from $200 for a single person plan and $400 for a family plan to $500 for single and $1,000 for family.
WRTA’s general fund budget totals about $8 million annually about $5.7 million of which comes from a 0.25 percent sales tax approved by Mahoning County voters in 2008.
“These employees worked well with the agency over the years when the agency was struggling with dollars,” said John P. Brown III, board member. “This contract includes a 3 percent raise over three years, but they haven’t had a raise in about five years.”
It comes out to about a 1.7 percent increase overall if the years without increases are included, he said.
The pact also implements a tiered wage system for new hires who will make 60 percent of top rate, or $11.20 per hour, after certification. Hourly pay increases under the tier system to $12.49 for year two, $13.87 for year three, $15.30 for year four, $17.86 for years five and $21.64 for the sixth year.
John Remias, union president/business agent, said his members previously ratified both the extension and the three-year pact.
He said the transit system will save money with the new contract and the tiered wage scale.
“We have 15 who are getting ready to retire,” Remias said. “We’ll lose about a third of our work force in the next two years.”
James Ferraro, WRTA executive director, said that even with the 3-percent pay raises, the authority’s drivers still make less than drivers from other transit systems.
At Akron’s bus service, drivers earn $22.18 per hour, $24.02 hourly in Cleveland and $19.90 hourly in Toledo, Ferraro said.
The six members of the Teamsters union who perform general labor including refueling and washing buses also got a 3 percent raise each year for three years.
That takes their pay to $17.84 per hour this year, $18.38 hourly in 2011 and $18.93 hourly in 2012. Like the drivers, Teamsters’ health insurance deductibles increase from $200 to $500 for a single plan and from $400 to $1,000 for a family plan.
Members also will get a signing bonus. Employees who worked 1,040 hours in 2009 will get a one-time check for $540.80. Those with fewer than 1,040 hours in 2009 will get a pro-rated amount.
Teamsters members also have gone about four years with no pay increases, board members said.