Transit Union officials seek pay raises for Transdev drivers

By: 

News Reporter
TransDev bus operators may receive higher wages due to a union initiative.

Shuttle operators at Texas State may soon experience higher wages and more benefits.

Officials with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) are working on behalf of Texas State Bobcat Shuttle operators to finalize new contract negotiations with Transdev, the company running the university system.

Union officials sought higher wages and more benefits for shuttle operators, said Joneth Wyatt, ATU president for the Austin office.

Shuttle operators include students, retirees and career-oriented drivers, said Alicia Moore, recording secretary for ATU's Austin office. Moore said officials wanted to negotiate improved benefits packages for career workers.

Moore visited campus March 16 to collect signatures for a petition supporting bus operators.

"The petition would actually show that the students actually should support their operators," Moore said.

Some students were unaware of operators' pay rates, and union officials wanted to help educate them about the issue, she said.

University officials classified the petition as solicitation and asked Moore to leave, she said.

"We're not a commercial vendor or anything of that sort, so we do have the right to actually be there on the campus," Moore said. "We're not bothering anybody. We're asking people politely, nicely, 'Can we please have your signature for this petition?'"

Jack Besch, Transdev general manager, said the petition was not related to the company’s operations at the university.

"It had to do with the representatives of the union on campus," Besch said.

Besch was unable to comment about specific requests in negotiations with ATU officials.

"They need health insurance," Moore said. "If (they) don't have money to pay these things, (they) cannot help (themselves) or (their) family."

Transdev’s highest earning operators make $10.66 an hour, Wyatt said.

ATU officials proposed Transdev start operator pay at $11.75 per hour for 2015 and raise the rate to $12 per hour in 2016, Wyatt said. Transdev officials suggested wages start at $10.75 per hour.

Besch said new operators' wages start at $10.50 per hour and increase annually. The wage is higher than the minimum offered for university jobs and greater than that of some establishments around town.

Student operators gained commercial drivers’ licenses (CDL) through Transdev that they would not have received in other positions, Besch said.

"We will train them from the ground up and will pay them for the training," Besch said.

He said operators are able to use their skills if they choose to pursue careers in transportation.

"It's a great partnership for the university because they walk away with a life skill," Besch said. "That CDL license goes with that student when they leave."

ATU officials had difficulty negotiating contracts with Transdev partly because the university bus system does not run all year, so employees sometimes have long breaks without work, Wyatt said.

Workers who perform duties under the required hours per year are not eligible for benefits, Wyatt said.

Seasonal employees typically have a higher turnover rate than part- or full-time workers, which leads to an unsafe environment, Wyatt said.

"(There are) a lot of inexperienced people out there behind the wheel driving those buses," Wyatt said.

Another reason Transdev officials did not want to raise operator pay was the company had acquired a new bus fleet and moved into a different facility, Wyatt said.

University officials partnered with Transdev because of the plan to build the new facility and buy new buses, Besch said. Transdev bid against other transportation companies for the contract with Texas State.

"We've got a brand-new, state-of-the-art transportation facility out here on Posey Road that we built exclusively and specifically for Texas State," Besch said.

The facility and buses were part of a $15 million "capital commitment" in the university's contract, he said.