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Thursday, September 25, 2003



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BUS DEAL REACHED

The union plans a vote Saturday,
and buses could be running
by Sunday or Monday


Negotiators reached a tentative contract deal this morning to end the month-long bus workers' strike that has clogged Oahu's roads, infuriated commuters and spurred a bus fare increase.

Buses will not be running, however, until the deal is ratified by the 1,336 striking Teamsters.

Union officials said they planned a ratification vote for this Saturday.

Oahu Transit Services Inc. officials said that if the deal is ratified, buses could be back on the roads by Monday, and possibly even Sunday.

Details of the pact were not immediately available, but includes some pay and pension increases, and no layoffs or cutbacks.

The deal was reached after hours of talks between negotiators for Teamsters Local 996 and OTS, the private company that runs TheBus system for the city.

The pact that union officials agreed to take to their members was one that OTS officials presented at 1:19 a.m. as their last, best, final offer.

It was the eighth negotiating session since the strike began at 12:04 a.m. Aug. 26.

The deal comes hours after the City Council approved a bus fare increase to raise $6.8 million in revenues that will be used to avoid planned cutbacks in service and driver layoffs.

In negotiations before the strike, Teamsters focused on saving jobs and avoiding service cuts. But two days into the strike, Mayor Jeremy Harris and City Council members assured the union that the city would raise bus fares to avoid cutbacks and layoffs.

The focus of the talks then shifted to increases in wages and pensions, with OTS and city officials insisting there was no money for raises.

Before the settlement was announced, union officials had said that it would take one to two days to have a ratification vote by the membership.

OTS officials said once the contract is ratified, it would not take long for the company to get buses back on the road.

"If we can get a 5 p.m. notice, we can get buses back by the next day," OTS Vice President Roger Morton said before the deal was announced.



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