Tuesday, September 9, 2003


Councilman says
OTS in default

The City Council offers
two proposals to end
the 15-day bus strike

The city should consider giving notice to the private company that runs its bus system to either get the strike-idled buses rolling or be fired, says a city councilman.

"The contract very clearly says (Oahu Transit Services Inc.) shall manage, operate and maintain a city bus system, and quite obviously they're not operating and maintaining a city bus system," Councilman Charles Djou said yesterday. "So what I'm saying is, they're in default. We should be sending them a notice of default that gives them 60 days to fix it. If they can't fix it in 60 days, the city has the right to terminate (the contract)."

But Mayor Jeremy Harris and members of his administration said that the problem is not with OTS.

"The problem is that the workers are on strike, and so simply changing managerial teams is not going to effect the current situation," Harris said. "(OTS) does a great job running the bus. ... We have no complaint with the managerial team."

Djou said he sees an ultimatum to OTS as a "sledgehammer" to spur contract talks to end the bus workers strike, which entered its third week today.

His suggestion came during and after a meeting held by the Council's Transportation and Budget committees on two bus fare hike proposals aimed at raising $6.8 million in additional revenue to restore service cuts and prevent layoffs of bus drivers, which has been an issue at the bargaining table.

The first proposal introduced by the committee chairpersons, Nestor Garcia and Ann Kobayashi, includes calls for a reduction of cash fares -- adult fares would drop to $1 from $1.75 -- and an increase in monthly passes up to $80. This plan raises senior fares fivefold to $60 a year.

The second plan, introduced by Councilmembers Donovan Dela Cruz and Barbara Marshall, would include increasing single fares for adults to $2 and for everyone else $1, while keeping monthly passes to no more than $40. Senior fares would go up to $25 a year instead of every two years.

Both plans would do away with transfers.

The committee deferred voting until tomorrow to give the administration more time to provide a cost analysis of the Dela Cruz-Marshall proposal.

Harris said yesterday that his earlier comments that the Dela Cruz-Marshall proposal was $5 million shy in additional revenue was not correct because the analysis was based on information on transfers that was not in the pair's final proposal.

"I am assuming that the City Council will be good to its word and will come up with some plan that will bring in at least $6.8 million of additional revenues so that our service need not be cut," Harris said.

Yesterday's meeting included testimony by several striking bus workers.

Bus driver Sybil Kam said that if the Council does not pass the fare hikes, there will be little chance of getting bus employees back to work soon.

"We want our bus service back. People who ride depend on it," Kam said. "Please help end the strike. We all want to go back to work. We don't want to put a burden on the city."

Under the OTS management contract, OTS is supposed to receive a $375,000 management fee. That fee goes up to $425,000 beginning Oct. 1, 2006.

Djou said his suggestion of declaring the OTS in default would be a last resort.

"This is not something that we need to necessarily implement, but it is something to put pressure on both of the parties to recognize here that if cooler heads don't begin prevailing in these labor negotiations, the ultimate hammer to end this whole thing is the ability for the city to terminate OTS's contract," Djou said.

City Transportation Director Cheryl Soon told the Council that OTS is in compliance with the contract "because we feel that they are performing their duties of trying to get a contract with the Teamsters union."

Soon said the administration has looked at options, but Djou's suggestion would "render this community without service for a very long time."


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