By a decisive 10-1 margin, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 approved a concession-laden new contract in an effort to stave off the elimination of more than 500 jobs and 35 percent of Port Authority of Allegheny County bus and trolley service.
That vote, saving an estimated $60 million over the four-year contract, led to a cascade of events culminating in an Aug. 21 Press conference where PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch announced the state would provide Between $30-35 million per year over the life of the contract.
“We will have an ongoing commitment,” he said. “We’re confident that this cost structure, which eliminates the ever increasing future costs, is one we can fund and will continue to do so.”
The cost structure he referred to in the new contract includes wage freezes for two years, followed by 2.25 percent raises over the final two years. It also increases employee pension contributions from 5.5 percent to 10.5 percent. The union also agreed to reopen the contract in 2014 to modify healthcare.
“Our membership really stepped up here and saved transit in Allegheny County,” said ATU Steve Palonis. “We have invested over $100 million over five years in this system. We realize it’s a partnership. And we will continue to advocate for a dedicated, sustainable, funding source for transit.”
In addition to the union concessions, Port Authority CEO Steve Bland noted that the 300 non-union employees had reduced costs by $10 million, meeting the goals set by Gov. Tom Corbett.
All the parties thanked County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for keeping everyone focused on a deal. Fitzgerald called the agreement historic.
“This sets a standard for what can be done, across the state and the country, when we work together. In addition to the reductions mentioned, the new part is our contribution,” he said. “Thanks to increased drink tax revenue and (Regional Asset District) revenue we have increased our county matching contribution to $4.5 million, with $3 million coming from RAD. This is part of a long-term, 10-year plan, even though the contract is just four years. Governor Corbett said he did want to see a one-year solution. So I am proud to stand here with these partners and say there will be no cuts to port Authority service in September.”