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Home News Latest Lake Transit workers plan strike following contract negotiations breakdown

Lake Transit workers plan strike following contract negotiations breakdown

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The county's transit agency is preparing for a strike action by transit workers that's expected to take place early next week.

The strike by members of Teamsters Local 665 is anticipated to take place on Monday, July 1, and Tuesday, July 2, in response to a breakdown in negotiations with Paratransit Services, the Bremerton, Wash.-based nonprofit that has operated Lake Transit Authority since 2007.

Negotiations toward a new three-year agreement broke down after employees met and failed to ratify Paratransit Services' offer on Sunday, according to Mark Wall, Lake Transit Authority's general manager.

He said union members informed Paratransit Services that they would strike July 1-2 and return to work on Wednesday, July 3.

The majority of the roughly 36 Paratransit Services employees represented by Local 665 are expected to strike, said Don Staler, the union's local shop steward and a Lake Transit driver for the last four years.

When Local 665 members voted for how long to strike – two days or a week – the two-day strike won by only two votes, which Staler took for an indication of solidarity among workers. He said a federal mediator was at the last negotiating session.

Randy Grove, director of operations and human resources for Paratransit Services, said in a written statement that a 2.2-percent wage rate increase was offered to Lake Transit employees.

Grove said that followed a 2.6-percent increase provided last year, and represents a cumulative 23.1- percent in wage rate increases over the six-year period of Paratransit Services’ administration of transit services for Lake Transit Authority.

“We have experienced increased operating costs, rising medical costs, and are seeing decreased transit funding in California,” Grove said.

He said the 2.2-percent wage increase was “incredibly fair in light of layoffs, furloughs and business closures experienced by others in the region,” adding that the union was seeking an overall wage and benefit package increase totaling 8.2 percent for 2013.

Staler, who estimated he makes only $0.50 more an hour today than he did when he started four years ago, did not have available the breakdown of the union’s requests for wages and benefit increases, but he said there are a number of issues on the table.

Those issues include bereavement pay for part-time workers; lack of accrued sick days; health benefits, which Staler said only about half a dozen workers can afford to take; and low morale and turnover, which Staler suggested is an outgrowth of Lake County's Paratransit Services workers making $2 to $3 an hour less than surrounding counties and roughly half of them working only part-time.

A main issue is restoration of step increases, which Staler said the union agreed to suspend several years ago due to the economy with Paratransit Services not allowing them the step increases back. Staler said those step increases are written into the Lake Transit contract.

Demand for Lake Transit's services have continued to go up, with Staler pointing out that 400,000 were transported by the agency last year.

Last year, Lake Transit put up its rates. “That never got to us,” said Staler, who believes the company is able – but unwilling – to pay its employees what they're worth.

Paratransit Services and its Lake County employees have had negotiations stalemates previously that came close to resulting in strike actions.

In August 2010, a federal negotiator brought the two sides to the table, with a new contract approved about two weeks later, as Lake County News has reported.

Most recently, Lake Transit workers had been days from a planned strike last November during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement contract opener on wages, health and welfare issues, when the two sides agreed to return to the table for mediation.

As a result of next week's planned strike, transit officials said the following limited services will operate July 1-2:

  • Clear Lake / Lakeport Dial-a-Ride (DAR) will operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
  • Routes 5 and 6 will run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
  • Route 4 westbound will operate at 7:05 a.m. and 1 p.m.;
  • Route 1 eastbound will operate at 8:31 a.m. and 2:21 p.m.

As a result of Lake Transit’s large increase in ridership over the last several years, plans have been made to offer expanded services in the Clearlake area, including adding a third route and extending the operation day from 5:19 a.m. until 10:52 p.m. as of July 1, Wall said.

The strike will have the added effect of delaying that service expansion until after employees return to work, Wall said.

Wall said riders who would like to be kept informed of service conditions can register to receive automated telephone updates by calling 707-994-3334. Riders also can visit www.laketransit.org .

Staler acknowledged that the strike could have a huge financial impact on the county, even though it's meant to be short-lived.

As for whether there might be any meetings this week that could stop the strike, Staler said that the next move is up to Paratransit Services.

“They know what we're going to do and when we're going to do it,” he said.

Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.

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rosiered
Take care of your people.
written by a guest, June 27, 2013
Look, you want good employees to stay, then treat them like you genuinely care whether or not they can put gas in their vehicles, food on their tables, and see a doctor when needed. It doesn't seem like anything unreasonable is being asked for. The job takes a great deal of responsibility & focus, as well as customer service skills, and from what I've seen of some of the patrons waiting at Ray's, they need to be babysitters as well. They drive some of the most poorly maintained & dangerous roads I've ever seen, into some extremely rural areas. They deal with drug dealers, addicts, drunks, and potentially dangerous people on a daily basis. They risk their lives every time they get behind the wheel, and still they show up for work, and do their best to provide excellent customer service. They go out into our community, as representatives of Para Transit. The people they serve, those that really need this service, that really know and like their drivers, see and appreciate what these people do. Give them a decent wage, some decent benefits, and a little vacation & sick time, so that when they need to take a break from this mentally & physically demanding job, they can take it without repercussion. Happy employees, who feel appreciated, respected, and know that management have their backs are much more likely to be loyal, go the extra mile, and answer their phone when shifts need to be covered. Just sayin'. Also, if the local police department would occasionally act concerned with all of the nefarious activity going on at Ray's, well that would be like....like they were doing their jobs. Step up CPD. It would be nice to see officers cruising through there on a regular basis. It would go a long way towards ensuring the safety of the passengers & drivers by discouraging the criminal element from hanging out at the shelters. Thank goodness I occasionally see other branches of law enforcement cruise through & even park in the vicinity. At least someone is concerned. We don't live in a huge metropolis, and even as crime ridden as our area is, I can't imagine why it's so difficult to get officers to devote just a little more time to running off the dirtbags at Ray's. Is it going to take someone actually getting seriously hurt, robbed, or worse?!
blazedfisher
stop with the corporate cash grab
written by a guest, June 26, 2013
This is the reason why this country is going in the direction we are going, the corporate cash grab needs to end. The payment of bonuses to managemant to keep employees moral as low as possible crushing the will of hard working people struggeling to just make their rent, food, bills and afford gas to get to work. Their job is hard enough with the ever increasing duties added on, not to mention the difficult passengers they have to deal with. The drivers medical benefits are so expensive, of the thirty some odd employees very few can even afford to have them. Basically with no benefits to benefit the employees they are entitled to make enough money to seek options unattainable through their employment. The money they are asking for is not extra, it is what was taken from them 3 yrs ago and they want it returned as per their good faith agreement with corporate which corporate now refuses to do. They are tired of being lied to and taken advantage of. The numbers portrayed are incomplete and dont give the full picture!

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 June 2013 02:05 )