GRTC Buses Severely Delayed Monday Due to Driver “Call Outs”
Update 5 p.m.: GRTC CEO Julie Timm sent a letter to union president Maurice Carter on Monday afternoon, asking him to encourage bus drivers to return to work.
In the letter, Timm said the ‘call-out’ was not permitted under the collective bargaining agreement between the union and GRTC. Employees who did not return to work were threatened with immediate termination.
A spokesperson for GRTC said the company expects bus service to return to normal on Tuesday.
Only half of GRTC bus drivers showed up to work on Monday, causing severe delays throughout the region.
The GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace said the company believes the coordinated 'call-out' is in response to a conflict over bus drivers receiving hazard pay during the coronavirus pandemic. Pace said many bus routes will now only be serviced about once per hour.
“It’s really not that dissimilar to snow route schedules, where we strive to put at least one bus on every route throughout the day,” she said. “The Pulse [rapid transit line] is the least affected right now.”
Pace said GRTC doesn’t know whether the call-out, and subsequent service cuts, will last beyond Monday.
GRTC bus drivers and mechanics are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1220. In a letter to GRTC CEO Julie Timm dated April 20, local union president Maurice Carter made a list of 10 demands, including personal protective gear for bus drivers, limiting ridership to 10 people or less per bus and hazard pay of 1.5x the normal pay rate.
The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1220 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While GRTC says it has met most of the demands, bus drivers are not currently receiving hazard pay. Timm authorized some supplemental pay for bus drivers last week, but Pace said “true hazard pay” will require board approval. The GRTC Board of Directors is not scheduled to meet until May 19.
“We’ve been looking at hazard pay, but that’s just not something we’ve been able to do yet,” Pace said. “There’s just no guarantee right now with the budget being what it is.”
GRTC estimates that hazard pay for frontline workers through June 31 would cost as much as $3 million.
Only one GRTC employee working in the administrative offices has tested positive for the COVID-19 disease as of Monday. The company says 21 employees have been tested in total.