RFTA bus drivers vote to approve collective bargaining agreement
Proposed deal would increase pay 9% to 11% if approved by agency board
Union bus drivers for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority voted Friday to accept a collective bargaining agreement that includes a pay increase, according to Ed Cortez, president and chief negotiator for the chapter.
RFTA’s board of directors must approve the proposed deal before it goes into effect.
Cortez said Monday the pay increase would make RFTA more competitive in recruiting new employees and retaining veteran drivers.
“We proposed a living wage that would allow drivers to continue to live in this area,” Cortez said. “It’s a pretty good deal. Drivers will be getting anywhere from 9 to 11 percent increases.”
Drivers will get hourly pay increases in July if the agreement is approved. Starting pay would increase from $21.08 per hour to $23.51 per hour, Cortez said.
Veteran drivers will get increases in July as well as on the anniversary of their hiring date, he said. Those increases will vary depending on length of duty with RFTA.
A complicated matrix that schedules pay increases over the next three years is part of the agreement. If approved, the agreement will be in place through 2024.
The key to the deal, Cortez said, is that RFTA drivers will be better compensated and the organization will be in a better position to compete for employees at a time when many businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley and the country are struggling to hire enough workers.
The election was open to dues-paying members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1774, though the contract will affect all drivers. The election was held Friday at RFTA’s maintenance facilities in Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
Cortez said 57 voters supported the proposed agreement while one voter was opposed. He said 74% of the eligible voters cast ballots.
RFTA drivers voted to join the union in 2015. Currently, only 71 drivers are paying dues. RFTA had 140 full-time and 20 seasonal and part-time drivers on its staff as of June 7. Its goal is to reach 190 total drivers for the summer, but the organization is having trouble finding enough candidates.
“Recruitment has been hampered by the lack of affordable housing for employees, as well as by a general shortage of Transit Bus Operators and Commercial Drivers across the nation,” the RFTA staff wrote in a memo to the board of directors in June.
The pay increases in the proposed contract will apply to all drivers, not just those in the union.
“We work for all the drivers,” Cortez said. “This contract is definitely going to help us to recruit members.”
RFTA’s board of directors will review the contract at its meeting and retreat on July 8. The proposed agreement does not come as a surprise. The board held a closed session at its June 10 meeting to provide feedback to its staff on negotiations with the union.
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Colorado State Patrol will send extra troopers to Independence Pass but tools such as one-way, directional travel through the Narrows are not being considered.