CAT board approves temporary contract with union

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The board overseeing Capital Area Transit approved a temporary contract with the agency’s union Tuesday, including a pay raise and changes to rules regarding absences.

The contract will last until June 30. By then, both sides say they hope to have multi-year agreement in place.

“Did your electric bill go up this year? Did your gas bill go up? Did you pay more for gasoline in your car? So, that means you need more money than what you’re accustomed to to make your budget work,” said John Keller, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1436.

The union will have vote on whether to approve the contract, which Keller expected members would do. The agreement includes a 2 percent pay increase, retroactive to January 1.

In recent weeks, many riders have been impacted by routes being canceled or delayed on several days. CAT managers said on some days, as many as a quarter of the agency’s drivers called off. Keller said that issue was not directly related to the contract negotiations.

“Drivers calling off never was an issue with routes being cancelled. So, they don’t have enough employees to do the job,” said Keller.

CAT currently has 86 full-time drivers and seven part-time drivers, said executive director Bill Jones. He added another six part-time drivers will start ahead of the summer season.

“Moving forward, we have plenty of drivers. As you can see, the service interruptions have halted,” said Jones, when asked about the timing of the service interruptions in relation to the contract negotiations.

Jones said rising costs related to healthcare, fuel and salaries could result in fare increases, though he did not have specifics on when that would happen or how much the increase could be. The current base fare is $1.75.

“The reality of it is, we are overdue for a fare increase anyhow. We haven’t had one since 2011,” said Jones.