UTA sues employees union

Published: Tuesday, April 27 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for the Utah Transit Authority have filed suit against the bus and train drivers' union over the 2010-2011 employees contract.

According to the suit, filed Friday in 3rd District Court, UTA wants a judge — and not an arbitrator, which the union wants — to conclude that both parties cannot reach agreement on the issues and therefore are at an impasse.

UTA also wants the judge to agree with its contention that the impasse occurred on Dec. 21, when the UTA Board of Trustees voted to implement a contract for 2010-2011, a contract that 99 percent of union members voted against just days before.

Joe Hatch, an attorney for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 382, which represents 1,300 bus and train operators along with maintenance and parts crew members, was waiting to see a copy of the suit on Monday. He said, however, he thinks that an arbitrator rather than a judge is the proper person to consider the issues, which stem from Section 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964.

The union sent UTA a list of arbitrators who specialize in labor issues, and UTA chose one. Both sides selected two days in July for arbitration, Hatch said.

"The UTA is very good at wasting taxpayers' money. They like paying their executives huge salaries," Hatch said, referring to revelations last week that acting Chief Executive Officer John Inglish earns more than public transit executives in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. "They also like to sue their employees."

A UTA says Section 13(c) doesn't apply to this particular case since UTA is only asking the judge to declare the impasse. "The July arbitration is primarily on the scope of the 13(c) agreement," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.

UTA has defended the salary being paid to Inglish in the past week, saying he is one of the best transit directors in the United States, with connections in Washington, D.C., that have translated into hundreds of millions in federal funding for Utah.

Late last summer, representatives from the union and UTA management had begun negotiating a new contract. Union representatives described the negotiations as the toughest in decades. With the recession, there has been less sales tax revenues for UTA, and UTA management said they couldn't give the employees a pay raise in 2010.

UTA management also wanted to hire part-time drivers for TRAX and FrontRunner, which the union opposed. Part-timers get fewer benefits than full-timers.

On Dec. 7, when the contract expired, the trustees voted to extend it. On Dec. 21, UTA trustees adopted a contract that it called, "the last, best and final offer" to the union, which had rejected it. The UTA employees are working under that contract, but do not accept it as the final offer and are seeking arbitration.

e-mail: lhancock@desnews.com

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