Thursday, September 11, 2008

Onorato Urges PAT and Union To Accept Recomendations

The Port Authority Board and Local 85 of the Amalgamated Transit Union have until Saturday to accept or reject the contract recommendations of fact finder Jane Rigler who was appointed by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato urged both sides to accept the proposed contract which he says is an important step to getting the transit agency "off the bankruptcy track." Onorato says the fact finder's report addresses for the first time long-term legacy costs which he called a "ticking time bomb." The recommendation would trim those costs for pensions and health care by 40% over the long term.
The fact finder recommended 3% annual pay hikes for the 2,300 union drivers, mechanics and supervisors for the next 3 years. Union employees currently contribute 1% of their base wages toward their health benefits but that would go up to 3% in phases, which is the same level that non-union PAT employees contribute. The recommendation also calls for an end to a $500 a month pension supplement for employees who retire early. Possibly, the most controversial provision from the union's point of view would be employees with 30 years of service and who retire before age 60 would have to contribute the same 3% toward health care. Retirees under 65 who have 25 to 30 years service could retain health care coverage but would have to pay PAT 100% of the cost.
Onorato says the union's possible interest in continuing to work under the old contract which expired June 30 "is not an option." He says the transit agency cannot afford it. But Onorato warned that even if the factfinder's report is accepted, that is not the end. PAT must evaluate routes and get rid of underused ones while establishing routes to underserved communities.

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