An Opening Salvo in PAT Negotiations
PAT board and management proposes, Amalgamated Transit Union opposes and disposes. No real surprise as news of a contract (the four year deal for PAT drivers and mechanics expires June 30, 2012) contains some very tough proposals: a wage freeze, no post-employment health coverage for new hires, higher contributions for pensions, and possibly a defined contribution plan for new employees.
It has happened before: in 2005 there was strong talk about outsourcing a percentage of PAT operations and maintenance to the private sector. Six years later it still takes the abandonment of routes and permission of the board to compete. Note too that the 2005 proposal also talked of a wage freeze and higher contributions toward benefits.
The current contract was supposedly a good thing for the Authority in terms of legacy costs, but no immediate savings were achieved. After negotiators were whisked away to the nation’s capital (the contract even included language that the parties would work toward a nationalized health care plan) the contract that developed segmented the workforce into different tiers and assigned health care benefits and contribution amounts accordingly. We wrote in a Brief right after that contract was awarded that "we will be told that the hammer on legacy costs will ‘really fall’ when 2012 comes around." Here we are.