St. Louis – The St. Louis bus drivers’ union is fighting claims coming from City Hall that the union organized absences by bus drivers that have caused service delays while contract negotiations continue.
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 788 does not deny that some drivers have not shown up for work at times during the contentious negotiations.
But the union points out that while drivers are seeking wage increases of at least five percent during a time of inflation, Metro Transit is offering only two percent.
“That outraged the operators,” Local 788 Vice President Catina Wilson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re already short-staffed – or maybe they’re upset.”
COVID, SHOOTING DIDN’T STOP DRIVERS
Catina Wilson said Metro’s accusation of an organized walkout came as a “slap in the face” to drivers.
“They worked through COVID, and we had a driver shot last year,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “This is a very rough time. I think this is our members acting on emotions. They didn’t expect a slap in the face.”
CONTRACT HAS EXPIRED
The old contract expired July 1. Metro now claims the union organized absences that have occurred over the past year. More than 100 absences have been recorded, causing daytime delays of up to 45 minutes in both the city and St. Louis County, according to Metro. Metro has answered with three reductions in bus service, the largest coming last November.
On Thursday, July 7, Metro issued this message after delays occurred: “We are currently in contract negotiations with our partners at ATU Local 788, and we are disappointed that there appears to be an organized work action by the union that will have a negative impact on our MetroBus service.”
At that time, Metro managers were pressed into service and no routes were canceled, despite delays.
Metro President Taulby Roach told the Post-Dispatch that the two percent raise offer was for a “short-term extension” while negotiations proceed toward a long-term agreement. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Aug. 18.
Local 788 President Reginald Howard said the two percent offer was not presented as an interim amount, but that on June 24, Metro proposed three one percent increases over the next three years.