Regional Transportation Commission’s bus drivers and mechanics are fighting to be more involved with contract negotiations between the transit agency and the private company that operates and manages public transportation.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1637 members claim profit-driven private companies that bid for the three-year, $100 million contract are more interested in making money for stock holders than providing Clark County residents quality service.
A small gathering of union members protested in front of the transportation commission headquarters Wednesday to draw attention to their new proposal. President Jose Mendoza said the commission’s request for proposals should include only a management contract, leaving labor negotiations between the RTC and the union.
Under the existing structure, the transit agency enters a contract with a private company, which negotiates the labor contract with drivers and mechanics. Mendoza said if companies end up paying workers higher wages than anticipated, they will cut bus services in order to make their targeted profit.
Jacob Snow, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission, said he has yet to see the union proposal, but added that members are welcome to speak to come speak to the board.
“We would welcome that,” he said. “They have a voice in the whole process.”
Mendoza said union members are in a “unique situation” because their contract with Veolia Transportation, which currently holds the contract, expired in December. Veolia’s contract with the Regional Transportation Commission expires in September. He questioned how the union should go about negotiating with a company that might not have the contract in seven months.
Initially Veolia, a company based in France, was competing with First Transit, a Canadian outfit, and MV Transportation, the sole company based in the United States. MV Transportation was eliminated from the process for failing to meet the criteria outlined by the transportation commission, Mendoza said.
Jeff Raske, treasurer of the union, said the members play a significant role in the contract and transit services, therefore they should be involved in the process to choose the managing company.
“Sixty percent of the contract deals with us. Don’t you think we have the right to be part of the process?” Raske said.
Snow said it would be inappropriate for union members to be part of the selection process because they would not be objective in choosing a company that meets the proper criteria. Cost is only one of many requirements bidding companies must meet. Companies also must show they’re qualified, experienced, innovative and have a history of providing quality customer service.
As far as the labor agreement, Snow said it is illegal for the RTC to become involved in labor management practices. Until the board directs him to rearrange the structure of the contract, he will proceed as the transit agency has since 1992, he said.
Raske said it is evident the current system does not work well. Veolia, which landed a three-year-contract with two two-year extensions, has in the past few years slashed transit routes, cut schedules and increased rates.
The union is proposing that the transportation agency extend the contract with Veolia until a new structure is put into place splitting the labor contract and the management contract.
“We are submitting a hybrid management proposal that will save $7 million to $10 million annually in operating costs while simultaneously improving employee morale, enhancing passenger safety, increasing customer service and stimulating ridership and revenue,” Raske wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to RTC Chairman Larry Brown.
Snow said the increase in fares and changes in routes were not decisions made by Veolia, but by the transportation commission.
“They’re just there to provide the service, we tell them what service to provide,” he said.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker@review journal.com or 702-387-2904.