Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 2, 2012

BATA locks in 5-year labor deals

Contracts affect drivers, mechanics and dispatchers

TRAVERSE CITY — The Bay Area Transit Authority locked in five-year labor contracts with its drivers, dispatchers and mechanics.

Tom Menzel, executive director of northern Michigan's largest public transit system, said drivers and mechanics ratified their contract agreement on Sunday.

Dispatchers ratified their agreement a week ago, on Sept. 25.

"It allows us to focus on building BATA and its operations, not negotiations," Menzel said.

The contracts affect about 60 union drivers, eight mechanics and eight dispatchers. Last year, the agency gave approximately 2 percent in pay raises to those employees, a total of about $65,000. Menzel said he expects this year's pay raises to be about the same under the new contract. The exact amount of the raises are dependent on the annual results of audits on BATA finances, which won't be completed until later this year.

Sheryl Langdon, of the Teamsters State, County and Municipal Workers Local 214, said members "felt it was the best choice to make" to ratify the contracts. She declined further comment.

Menzel said the contract gives the agency more flexibility in changing driver routes. It also requires mediation prior to arbitration in labor disputes. For dispatchers, BATA was able to negotiate new parameters for layoffs if a workforce reduction is necessary.

The new contract language allows BATA to retain the highest-performing employees rather than on a strict seniority system.

"We were very happy with the collaborative nature of the negotiations with both labor groups," said Kelly Yaroch, human resources and operations director for BATA.

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