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Cap Metro Makes F1 Backup Plans As Union Threatens Strike

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 05:06 PM CDT

A threat to put the brakes on Capital Metro’s F1 plans: bus drivers and mechanics in Austin’s transit union have voted to authorize a strike. It’s against McDonald Transit, the company that provides drivers for more than half of Cap Metro’s routes. Union officials say it could happen in the next week, just in time for F1 weekend.

To beat the traffic during F1 weekend, public transportation is a key part of the city’s plan, one that could be at risk.

"We'd like to see Capital Metro step up to the plate," said Jay Wyatt, president of ATU Local 1091. Wyatt mentions lower starting pay, increased health premiums, and issues he calls unfair labor practices that are at the root of the potential strike.

Wyatt says he thinks they’ll make a decision on whether or not to strike “in the next week or so.” As for how many employees could potentially strike,

“I think somewhere in the area of around 500 people."

Capital Metro spokesperson Dan Dawson says he’s confident his agency can handle any outcome.

“We have a number of contingency plans ready to go,” said Dawson. When asked about what the plan for the worst case scenario would involve, “I can't really comment on the specifics of the plans because right now they're still in negotiation so we don’t want to disrupt that but what I can tell you is that we do have plans to move as many of people as possible.”

Dawson says F1-related transit routes get priority. To fill in the gaps, the agency will pull workers from their other contractors, with overtime pay where necessary.

"Strike is not something we really want to do,” said Wyatt. “It's just the only tool we have to try to resolve deadlocks."

We reached out to McDonald Transit to get a response to the union’s concerns. An official declined to reply to specific grievances, telling us the company never discusses ongoing negotiations.

Dawson says Cap Metro is not a party to any of the negotiations and cannot interfere. He added that Metro Rail, UT shuttles, and Metro Access would not be affected by a strike.

Mike Martinez, Cap Metro Chairman and City Council Member Place 2, issued the following statement Friday in response to the union’s strike authorization vote:

“This is a critical time for Capital Metro. We’ve righted our financial ship and we are in the middle of making great strides to provide a higher level of service to our ridership. While I respect the decision of the ATU members to self-determination, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that ATU asked for the current labor structure, and our contractor has been negotiating to provide both protections and an opportunity for our drivers to succeed as we restructure. This action, at such a critical time for the agency, will undoubtedly harm not only our ability to provide service to those who rely on Capital Metro the most, but also to the ATU members who are putting good faith negotiations at risk.

Strikes should be utilized as a last effort after discussions break down, not a first knee-jerk reaction before all other options are considered. It is my hope that the members of ATU continue their amazing service and remain at the bargaining table with McDonald in order to resolve remaining issues.”

By Adam BennettCap Metro Makes F1 Backup Plans As Union Threatens Strike

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