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Saturday, September 23, 2000

Settlement averts
TheBus strike

Drivers win 50-cents-per-hour
pay raise and pension increases

Council chairman says fare
increases may be necessary


Late Breaking
Election Results

By Jaymes K. Song

After some arm twisting and long hours of negotiating, operators of TheBus and the Teamsters Union have reached a tentative agreement, averting a strike Monday that could have stranded 240,000 passengers per day.

Negotiations resumed today between the Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996 and Oahu Transit Services Inc., operators of TheBus. Both sides accompanied by a federal mediator emerged from the Prince Kuhio Federal Building at 11:05 p.m. today.

The tentative agreement increases pension contribution to $3 an hour from $1.77 over three years and a 50-cent per hour pay increase over three years.

“This is the richest darn package ever negotiated by Teamsters,” said Teamsters President Mel Kahele. “And ever negotiated by any, I believe, transit company in the nation.

“This is a wonderful contract,” he added. “All of committee unanimously voted on it and I don’t believe anybody out there in their right mind would not vote and ratify this contract.”

James Cowen, Oahu Transit Services president and general manager, wasn’t prepared to say how much the increases would cost, but did say “it’s a substantial amount of money, but not more money than I think is appropriate for our employees.”

Kahele credited the federal mediator’s role in the negotiations just hours before the announced strike of the union of 1,300 drivers and other employees. Under the 72-hour notice the union gave management Thursday, the earliest they could walk out would be 2 a.m. tomorrow.

“I may have to go to the doctor because there was a twist of my arm and probably Mr. Cowen’s arm,” Kahele said. “I’m just kidding, but (the federal mediator) did an excellent job.”

On July 27, a majority of TheBus employees rejected a tentative three-year contract settlement proposal recommended by Teamster negotiators.

Entry level bus drivers are now paid $13 an hour and senior drivers earn about $19 an hour.

Members were told at Thursday meetings that the union proposal was a 60 cents per hour wage increase in each of three years of the contract, and a 46 cents per hour increase in the pension each year. The company offer at that time was for a 40 cents pay hike in the first year and 50 cents each in the second and third years. The pension increase offered was 20 cents in Year 1, 15 cents in Year 2 and 20 cents in Year 3.

City officials had warned that an ever-evolving contingency plan designed to cope with a strike of TheBus workers would be able to accommodate only an estimated 10 percent of the service’s 240,000 daily passengers.

Kahele said the strike notice, which was at the center of the primary election, was not politically motivated.

“For some reason everyone thinks its all political ... My primary focus was to take care of all the people at OTS,” he said.

“It’s taken its toll on me, on the committee, on the company’s committee, and its taken a toll on our members,” Kahele said. “I’m gonna go home, rest, recuperate and fly up to Hilo to negotiate another contract on Tuesday.”

Council chairman says
fare increases may
be necessary

By Richard Borreca

John Yoshimura, City Council chairman, says that if the new bus contract calls for a budget increase, it should come from targeted bus fare increases, not the city general fund and property taxes.

“If the budget for the bus includes an increase, we need to take a serious look at the fare structure,” he said after the deal was announced Saturday night.

But Yoshimura cautioned that any bus fare increase should still protect specific groups such as students, senior citizens and the disabled.

“We have to look at the fare box collections, not the bus passes,” he said.

Yoshimura noted that more than a year ago, the appointed city Transportation Commission recommended certain bus fare increases, but that the council did not approve all the recommendations.

“I will ask the commission to revisit the entire issue now,” Yoshimura said.

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