TCAT Responds to UAW’s Rejection of Contract

The TCAT Board of Directors regrets the decision today by the UAW membership to once again reject the terms of a negotiated 3-year contract.The contract, rejected by the union on September 25, provided $225,000 in wage increases over the three-year period: $200 as an immediate signing bonus; $500 as a bonus in January 2012; a 1.0 % wage increase in 2013; and a 1.25 % wage increase in 2014. Bus operators presently make between $36,000 and $44,000 per year before additional compensation for overtime and shift differentials. Mechanics’ annual base wages range from $42,000 to $51,000.The proposed increases were predicated on the ability of TCAT to adopt a health insurance plan for the next three years, which would limit the annual average premium increase to 5%. TCAT would continue to pay approximately 90% of individual coverage under the proposed Excellus Simply Blue 25-500 plan, and 75% of the premium for two-person and family coverage. Modest increases in co-pays and deductibles were part of the new plan.On October 17, the union offered to propose a “revenue neutral” alternative package, which would include a more generous health insurance plan. One month later, however, on November 15, the union gave TCAT its proposal for a revised health plan costing substantially more, but with no reduction in the wage increases previously included in the negotiated contract. The additional cost of this proposal was $164,000.TCAT is operating at a projected $306,000 deficit this year, the result of three successive years of reductions in financial support from New York State and the inability of its local sponsors to increase their financial contributions in light of their own fiscal constraints.TCAT’s budget for the year ahead projects another deficit, even in the face of proposed increase in rural fares (the first fare increase since 2003), service reductions, a management salary freeze and unfilled positions. The draft budget TCAT submitted to its local funding entities (Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca and Cornell University) on August 4 called for no wage increases for either management or represented employees in 2012, but the original tentative agreement would nonetheless have provided $70,000 in bonuses to union members between the signing date and the middle of January, 2012.The so-called “me too” clause demanded by the union was not accepted by TCAT at the bargaining table during the course of the original negotiations and was not included in the original agreement. The union demand would require that its roughly 100 members would receive the same wage adjustment as that provided to any one administrative employee over the course of the agreement if that adjustment exceeded the contractual wage increase provided to union members, regardless of the reason for the individual’s compensation adjustment.The contract, rejected today by the union, responded to the union’s position that its members would be willing to pay for the cost of their members to participate in a more generous health insurance plan of their choice (Excellus PPO-B) to the extent that this plan required TCAT’s premiums to increase by more than 5% per year over the course of the agreement. The tentative agreement offered to implement a “dual option” arrangement, in which all TCAT employees would have the option of enrolling in either the Simply Blue Plan or PPO-B. The earlier negotiated wage increases were proportionately reduced in order to pay for the resulting higher premiums, in accordance with the understanding reached on October 17.TCAT remains available to work with the union, assisted by the staff of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, to settle the remaining economic issues of the contract within the fiscal resources available to the organization.“The bottom line is that there is no us‑versus- them thinking in our philosophy,” said TCAT General Manager Joe Turcotte. In fact, over the past six years, non‑represented employees received lower percentage wage increases than did union employees.

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