Tuesday, July 20, 2010

AC Transit Drivers' Sickout Continues

By Ellen Cushing
Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 5:13 PM

For the second day in a row, AC Transit suffered an almost 20 percent loss of its workforce on Tuesday, forcing delays in service as drivers and directors remain locked in a labor dispute. Yesterday, about 209 drivers — or approximately 18 percent of the transit agency’s 1,750 unionized employees — failed to show up for work, presumably in protest of the transit agency’s new contract, which was imposed by management in a cost-cutting move. Today saw roughly the same number of no-shows, according to Sam Singer, an AC Transit spokesman. As a result, bus service has been delayed and spotty, though Singer emphasized that buses are still running.

The new contract includes new rules regarding overtime, insurance and pensions — all intended to dig the transit agency out of a multimillion-dollar deficit. On Friday, the union won a ruling that would put the dispute to an arbitrator, but that date hasn’t been set yet.

Claudia Hudson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s local 192, was adamant that the demonstration was a reaction not to the pay changes, but to route restructuring that came along with it. She mentioned examples of drivers who have trouble seeing well at night being put on late shifts, and of drivers who haven’t driven across the Bay Bridge in years being assigned to the Transbay route — without, she alleged, adequate training from the transit agency. “This isn’t a sick-out,” she told the Express. “This is about safety.”

Singer, however, said that all drivers know their routes, and that Hudson’s statement was “absolutely false.” “It’s cynical and dishonest of her to be presenting it like that,” he said.

AC Transit publicly denounced the drivers in a press release put out this morning. "To simply not show up for their obligated assignments — to leave other workers, children, seniors, disabled and elderly passengers without warning and no transportation — is unacceptable," stated Mary King, AC Transit’s interim general manager.

For now, at least, both Hudson and Singer indicated that they expect the standoff — and the delays to service — to continue. “Until AC Transit is willing to make some changes, it could possibly be like this for awhile,” Hudson said.

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