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Transit union votes 'no confidence' as no contract lingers

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority

The union representing Metro Bus drivers and mechanics says it wants the public and the Governor to know members are "very frustrated" about the lack of a contract after eight years of negotiations, and have "no confidence" in the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's Executive Director to reach an agreement on their behalf.

With no negotiation meeting currently scheduled, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1342 President Vince Crehan says some 60 percent of membership participated in and voted "no confidence" in Executive Director Kim Minkel. The results will be sent to Governor Cuomo, who appoints the Chair of the NFTA Board of Directors.

Crehan says one sticking point in negotiations has been a pay raise.

"To start as a bus driver now is $12.95 an hour - to have the responsibility of driving an over-40-foot bus with over 50 lives on it," he says. "It's very well underpaid."

He says the other issue has been health care. NFTA Spokesman Doug Hartmayer says the agency currently pays the health insurance of ATU members, but now wants them to contribute.

"We would like nothing more than to have an agreement yesterday with the hardworking men and women of the ATU," he says. "We've had an offer on the table since four months ago with no response - not a rejection, not an acceptance, let's sit down and meet - no word from the ATU."

Hartmayer says the NFTA has negotiated 18 collective bargaining contracts with its 13 unions over the last 8 years, but the ATU contract has been particularly difficult because of the communication breakdown.

Crehan says the small pay raise offered by the NFTA would not cover the health insurance contribution the authority is requesting.