RENO — The two-year contract agreed upon by Teamsters Local 533 and MV Transportation avoided a workers’ strike on June 29 when Local 533 held a member’s vote on the terms of the contract. With transit systems moving uninterrupted, the Local 533 finds the terms of their new contract reflecting a former contract from more than five years ago.
Gary Watson, president of the Local 533, said the union held a contract with the company First Transit, an Ohio-based transit service provider, for several years before beginning negotiations with MV Transportation. He said the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) has chosen MV Transportation to handle its public transit, meaning Local 533 members — including RTC bus drivers, maintenance workers, dispatch and customer service employees — would be dealing with a new company.
“The RTC and MV Transportation signed a four-year contract in July of 2011 at which point we signed an interim agreement (with MV Transportation) until we could finalize the contract,” Watson said. The final agreement between the Local 533 and MV Transportation will extend through June of 2014.
MV Transportation’s contract with the RTC is for four years, with an option for a pair of two-year extensions, according to Watson. He said part of the cause of the year-long negotiations was the union trying to reinstate “language” that was left out of their most recent contract with First Transit.
“There were some terms and conditions of employment in the 2005-2008 contract that were left out of the 2008-2011 contract and it was important to the members that we have that language in there,” Watson said.
The Local 533 has members in about 35 companies and negotiated about 18 contracts in the past year and a half. The transit system workers represent a large base of union members and the contract was of major importance to the Local 533’s negotiation committee, which Watson was the director of.
“The bus system is one of our most union-oriented entities,” he said. “We spent a lot of time on it and we definitely did not take it lightly.”
In the year spent proposing, agreeing and changing the contract, Watson and his committee met with representatives of MV Transportation mostly at the Local 533 office on Gentry Way in Reno. Several caucuses for members were held in the union hall to confirm agreement on the language and terms of the contract. Watson said though not all their contract negotiations take a year to complete, two new companies working on a contract together can take a little more time.
“This was a long process with a lot of give and take on both sides. The final agreement was truly, win-win, and was only possible because of the hard work by both the union and the company bargaining committees,” said Cristina Russell, public relations officer for MV Transportation.
Watson said there are “always indifferences with any contract negotiation” and this case was no exception. He said the process of “back and forth between the companies” was expected. In concurrence, representatives of MV Transportation said working through the contract required basic contract procedures.
“The relationship between the Company and the Union remains positive,” Russell said. “Despite initial differences at the bargaining table, both sides were able to resolve all outstanding issues in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.”
The new contract will freeze wages for union members for at least the next two years, which ultimately ends up being four years dating back to 2010 and their former contract with First Transit, according to Watson. He said the reinstallation of language to match their their 2005 agreement made the final examination of the contract go smoothly for almost all union members.
“At the end of the day it is a partnership and the contract speaks for itself. We are pleased to have it all worked out and our members like the (the contract).”