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Bonus aims to encourage bus, shuttle drivers to stay

November 20, 2018

The city could pay a bonus to municipal bus and shuttle van drivers for staying on the job, according to a “retention incentive” proposal unanimously endorsed Monday by the city Finance Committee.

The proposal to amend the city’s collective bargaining agreement comes in response to an unsettling recent wave of departures in the city’s ranks of transit operators, shuttle operators and para-transit operators, according to city staff, who warn that bus operations could be endangered by the thinning ranks.

The city has seen 18 resignations by transit and shuttle drivers and eight from para-transit operators this year.

“Around April of this year we began to see an accelerated rate of resignations,” Keith Wilson, director of transit administration and grants, wrote in an email.

According to a city document outlining the retention plan, as of Nov. 1 the city had 39 full-time transit operators and 11 full-time para-transit operators on the payroll. The city has budgeted for 56 full-time transit operators and 18 para-transit operators. The same document states the city is currently shy two part-time shuttle operators.

“The loss of employees filling these positions can pose a threat on the current bus routes,” says a memo by transit division directors.

Under the incentive proposal, employees in those roles who are continuously employed through various time frames over the next eight months will receive bonuses.

Full-time employees who remain on the job continuously from Nov. 1 through Dec. 1, from Jan. 1 to March 31, and from April 1 through June 30 will earn a $700 bonus for each of those periods. Part-time employees will receive $350 for each of the same periods.

For a transit operator earning the starting salary of $13.97 an hour, $700 amounts to a bit less than one third of monthly earnings.

The total amount budgeted for the incentives is roughly $121,000.

The city memo states the plan, which requires approval from the full City Council, came out of working “collaboratively” with the AFSCME Local 3999 chapter, the union which represents several hundred city employees.

“The parties agree that immediate action needs to be taken to retain employees in these key positions given the economic circumstance which is precipitating their leaving,” according to the proposed amendment to the bargaining agreement.

Bernadette Salazar, the city’s human resources director, said the city’s struggles in retaining transit operators stem from the pay level.

“In working with the [transit] division and the union, this is a short-term solution to the pay issue we have,” she said, adding that the city’s current fleet of drivers has been “working more overtime than usual.”

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