Hundreds of AC Transit operators call in sick again

July 20, 2010 7:24:47 PM PDT
Tuesday was a challenging day for people who take AC Transit after a lot of drivers did not show up for work because of a contract dispute.

On Tuesday, 200 drivers, or 20 percent of AC Transit's workforce, called in sick for a second straight day.

The district says it had to impose the contract to save $15.7 million over the next year. Without it, they say they are losing $300,000 every week. The union was in court Tuesday challenging the contract which they did not agree to.

Lawyers for the Amalgamated Transit Union, ATU Local 192 left the courthouse empty-handed Tuesday, preparing to come back July 30 and ask a judge to block the contract imposed on ATU bus operators and mechanics two days ago.

"AC Transit wants a strike, which is why they're doing everything within their power to disrupt the lives of the people who do the work," Local 192 President Claudia Hudson says.

Hudson says AC Transit restructured service and assignments, and that many workers called in sick Monday and Tuesday because sudden changes to their schedule meant, for example, they had no childcare. She adds that in some cases, the assignment changes mean dangerously long hours behind the wheel.

"We do not carry cattle. We carry live human beings. We have to make sure that they are 100 percent safe when we go out there and when we operate buses," Hudson says.

"Nothing's changed in this contract. All we're asking for is for them to contribute to the medical care and we're freezing their salaries. That's not an unsafe condition. That's an economic condition," says AC Transit spokesman Sam Singer.

The prior contract expired June 30 and AC Transit imposed a new contract on Sunday. AC Transit says the high number of sick calls made it hard to keep buses on time.

"The district has cut everything, management... Riders have paid their fair share. They're cutting back on service. Now, it's time for the union to step up to the plate and take some cuts themselves, so that the district can survive financially, to help the people who ride the buses," Singer says.

The imposed contract institutes new overtime rules and a two-tiered pension plan. All parties will be back in court at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 30.


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