This summer, some 850 workers will no longer be directly employed by transit authority Capital Metro, or its non-profit contractor StarTran — instead, they’ll be contracted out to a soon-to-be named private company.
It’s a change that has to be made because of a state law passed last year, requiring transit employees to either become state employees or employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the workers chose the contractor option, as to maintain collective bargaining rights.
Tomorrow, staff will recommend to the Capital Metro Board of Directors which of the contractor bids it believes is best. They may recommend one contractor for fixed route services (regular bus lines), and another for paratransit services (door-to-door service for people with disabilities). Staff may also recommend a single contractor for both.
On Monday, the board will announce its final decision.
Glenda Pittman is an attorney that represents Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, a union which represents Cap Metro employees. She says Local 1091 is anxious to begin the bargaining process.
“Very soon after they are announced, we will seek to begin collective bargaining. The union will continue to make every effort to protect the pension plan and represent the employees,” Pittman says.
The question of whether Cap Metro’s new contractor will be forced to honor existing benefits has been hotly debated; a recent arbitrator’s decision stated a new contractor wouldn’t have to abide by the old agreements.
The switchover means Capital Metro will only have about 200 direct employees, mostly administrators. It also means the focus of the company will change. Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson says that instead of being as hands-on with employees, the focus will mainly be on planning, budgeting and routing.
“Starting from literally next Tuesday the 24th through August 19th, we’ll be working with the new contractor or contractors to transition to this new structure,” Watson predicts.
So what does this all mean for Cap Metro riders? Probably not much. Drivers may have a new logo on their uniforms starting August 19th but Cap Metro says they’re working hard to make sure otherwise the change is seamless.
Note: A recent ATU International report says studies show a correlation between cutting drivers’ wages and safety for passengers.