VTA and ATU Negotiations Continue
Brandi Childress

VTA began the new year negotiating collective bargaining agreements with two of its four unions – ATU Local 265 and SEIU Local 521.

On January 23, SEIU held a ratification vote for a 3-year successor agreement.

At the February 7 meeting, the VTA Board authorized the General Manager to approve and adopt the labor agreement between VTA and SEIU Local 521. 
As of March 6, negotiations are still ongoing with ATU Local 265. Multiple meetings have been held, and are scheduled in the future, to continue bargaining in good faith. Current proposals by VTA illustrate that the organization is poised to meet some of the needs of the ATU membership and include a cost of living increase for retirees, increasing the wage progression schedule, and a wage package that is competitive, fair and financially sustainable over the long term. 


ATU would like to see a system that reduces the time it takes for new bus operators to reach their top salary which currently stands at 48 months after they successfully complete their training. VTA has responded to ATU by proposing a reduction in the pay progression period – the time it takes to move from the base salary step to the top step. Provided that a new operator meets certain qualifying criteria, they will be eligible to reduce their progression period from 48 months to 36 months. The criteria, in general, requires the operator to work their scheduled shifts, receive no substance abuse violations and avoid preventable accidents.
VTA has offered the following wage increase and progression schedule for bus operators. The below table describes a proposed gross hourly wage before any withholdings and/or deductions:

  Based on VTA's Proposal dated 3/6/2019  
Current (March 2019) Year 1
(1.5% to base)
Year 1
(1.5% bonus)
Year 2
(2.25% to base)
Year 3
(2.5% to base)
Incremental gross hourly base wages at the end of 3 years
(not including the 1.5% bonus in year 1)
Starting after training $21.03 $21.35 $656.14 $21.83 $22.37 $1.34
Mid-point, Step 5 $28.04 $28.46 $874.85 $29.10 $29.83 $1.79
Top pay rate $35.05 $35.58 $1,093.56 $36.38 $37.29 $2.24


Pension and Retirement Benefits

Most public pension benefits provide for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) tied to key economic triggers, including CalPERS and Social Security. ATU's pension plan, at the present time, does not have a mechanism to provide for a COLA. VTA has proposed that retirees receive this adjustment, providing a viable opportunity to add value to the retiree benefit.

Additionally, both parties remain far apart on the issue of the pension contribution. ATU union members are now the only employees remaining at VTA (except for ATU employees hired after January 2016), who do not contribute their fair share towards their pension. As of October 2017, the majority of ATU members (1,285) started contributing 1.9% of their wages toward their pension contributions. VTA pays for the share of the employee contribution that is not paid by employees in addition to paying the employer share of the pension contribution. All other VTA employees (including ATU employees hired after January 2016) contribute from 6% to 7% of their wages, which is their full share of the employee pension contribution.

VTA is proposing that ATU members contribute to their pension benefit as does the rest of the workforce. VTA’s contribution to the ATU pension has significantly increased over the last five years, from $25.5 million in 2014 to $32.3 million in 2018 – an increase of over 26%. Given the demographics and the volatility of the stock market, this trend is likely to continue. VTA believes it is critical that ATU employees contribute their fair share to the pension plan consistent with the contributions made by all other VTA employees. ATU has rejected this proposal.
For the latest round of proposals traded to date, which includes wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment, click on the Labor Relations page below.

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