Last night, the VTA Board approved an amendment to the labor agreement between Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 265, adjusting the starting pay and reducing the pay progression period for Bus Operators.
Effective February 21, 2022, all-new Bus Operators will start at step 1 with a wage rate of 65% of the top Bus Operator wage rate, eliminating the trainee rate. Furthermore, the step progression will be reduced from a nine (9) step, 48-month progression period to a seven (7) step, 36-month pay progression period.
“It is important to have continuous collaboration with our Unions. I am happy that our joint efforts with ATU provide for attractive bus operator pay and progression. This will ensure the highest level of service to the public and the County.” Said Carolyn Gonot, VTA’s General Manager/ CEO
VTA, like all transit agencies nationwide, is experiencing significant challenges attracting new Bus Operators This is an approach to address the local recruitment and retention issue. While all transit agencies are experiencing this shortfall, the high cost of living in the bay area continues to be a significant recruiting obstacle for VTA.
In December 2021, VTA and ATU signed a tentative agreement formally extending the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and agreeing to discuss the starting wages further and pay progression period of Bus Operators to address the difficulties of recruiting and retaining qualified Bus Operators.
“We need to start thinking about getting people back on the busses and trains, and the way to do that is to ensure you have consistent and reliable service, and when you are short on bus operators, you obviously are facing a dilemma,” said John Courtney, ATU Local 265 President & Business Agent.
He added, “Thank you to the VTA’s administration. This is a very good first step to provide our county with good reliable service with good quality operators”.
The current progression period includes a trainee wage that starts at 55% of the Bus Operator’s top step, which translates to $21.80 per hour, with a 48- month progression period that includes a 5% increase every six (6) months until the Operator reaches top step.
The estimated impact of this action is approximately $6,559,000. About 884 active drivers are at various stages in their step progression. The percentage of active drivers at the top step represents approximately 75% of the operator population. The next highest group was Step 1, with 9%.
VTA has over 2,100 employees, and four bargaining units or unions represent approximately 90% of employees. They are ATU Local 265, SEIU Local 521, AFSCME Local 101, and TAEA Local 21.