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Teamsters ratify new OTS contract with 6.4 percent raise

By Marcel Honoré

LAST UPDATED: 7:42 p.m. HST, Jul 9, 2013

Honolulu’s bus drivers ratified a new five-year labor contract Tuesday with Oahu Transit Services, Inc. — the company that runs TheBus.

The agreement, which calls for a wage freeze for the first 16 months but a 6.4 percent raise during the five-year period, was tentatively reached on Jun 30, which was the day the last five-year contract expired. 

It followed several weeks of talks, according to OTS officials, and it covers some 1,400 bus drivers, clerical and maintenance members of Teamsters Local 996.

“It speaks well of the parties, OTS and the Teamsters, that they were able to reach an agreement amicably, supported by the membership, and avoid any shutdown of TheBus,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement.

Local 996 members approved the deal by an “overwhelming” vote conducted throughout the day, said Millie Downey, the union’s secretary-treasurer. She did not specify the final count.

“We didn’t get as much as we wanted” due to continued slow economic growth, Downey said. However, the Teamsters maintained their same medical benefits, and that was their top priority, she added.

All union employees will remain covered under the Teamsters Health and Welfare plan through a 100 percent employer contribution of $895 a month, according to an OTS statement.

This marks the third five-year contract that the Teamsters and OTS have inked since 2003 — the last time the drivers went on strike.  Before then, the last time Honolulu's bus drivers went on strike was 1971.

"Given the recent strikes in San Francisco and the importance of TheBus to Oahu's residents, mahalo to the Teamsters and OTS for coming to an agreement," Michael Formby, the city's Director of Transportation Services, said in a statement.

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