Transit- Board hears transit union grievance- the News Dispatch

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

March 5, 2013

MICHIGAN CITY — Michigan City Board of Works members heard a complaint Monday from The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 517 – the union for the city’s transit department bus drivers – who argued that drivers are not being properly compensated for a lunch break that is written into their contract.

Union representatives told the board that drivers clock in for work at 6 a.m. in the morning and do not clock out until they leave at the end of the day because a one-hour paid lunch break is written into their work policy.

However, the union representatives said the drivers are frequently still driving for about 20 minutes of their break when they are legally permitted to be off work and away from their job. The union representatives said the problem arises because the drivers end their routes at a location that is 10 minutes away from the central maintenance building, where drivers are based. It takes the drivers 10 minutes to drive back to the central maintenance building at the start of their break and then another 10 minutes to drive back to the bus at the end of their shifts. This problem is further aggravated when route delays and breakdowns occur.

In the past, drivers were compensated for this missing portion of their breaks by 20 minutes being added to their shifts at the end of the day, after they already had clocked off.

However, the new Michigan City Transit director, Rob Strader, changed this policy when he came on the job last fall because he said he did not feel comfortable paying people for time when they are not physically present on the job.

According to Strader’s new managerial policy, workers now are paid the same amount as when they were formerly required to clock in to work at 6:20 a.m. In November or early December, Strader changed his employee’s clock-in time to require them to be at work at 6 a.m. to complete the required pre-route inspections of their vehicles.

“So essentially they are paid the same amount even though they are there longer,” Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer said.

Board attorney John Espar pointed out that simply adding 20 minutes to the drivers’ lunch period would not solve the problem.

“Then, you’d have an hour and 20 minute lunch with them requesting an additional 20 minutes for drive time,” Espar said.

Strader said the employees could submit overtime paperwork to request the compensation for their lost time, but one union representative pointed out that is essentially what the previous policy fulfilled, by adding 20 minutes to the drivers’ shifts at the end of the day.

When asked how many employees submitted overtime requests, Strader said many of them simply “took the hit.”

“I have issues with the way we are doing lunch now … but I believe the wrong way to deal with that issue is to add the time at the end of the day,” Strader said.

Strader said he hopes to fix the route issues in the future to make them more efficient and timely, but added that process would take months to put into effect.

The board members agreed to extend their hearing of the grievance presented by the local union until the next meeting at 8:30 a.m. March 18.

Espar said that would give the city time to ask the state board of accounts the proper procedure for compensating employees for lost time and find out whether the city could legally remedy the situation by adding 20 minutes to the ends of the drivers’ shifts.

Espar added that this situation ultimately could be resolved in one of two ways: the board could work with the union and the transit department to negotiate a policy change, in which case Espar said retroactive compensation for the drivers’ lost time mostly likely would not be paid. Or, the board could decide that its interpretation of the employee contract is different from the managerial staff of the transit department, and it could decide that the employees are entitled to retroactive compensation.

In other action:

• The board approved an employee health benefits plan with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield for a contracted amount expected to range between $4.7 million and $5.7 million. Craig Menne of General Insurance Services recommended the city’s approval of the policy and told the board that the policy is the exact same policy as the city maintained with Blue Cross last year. However, the city negotiated for a policy that is approximately 8 percent lower than last year.

“There is a certain amount of gamble because we are self-insured . So, we don’t know the final cost of the policy until the end of the year,” Meer said.

Menne told the board that United Healthcare also presented a competitive offer to the city, but the city would assume less risk by opting in favor of the Blue Cross policy.

Menne said the Blue Cross policy also would benefit city employees the most because the insurer offered more discounts for out-of-pocket expenses expected to be picked up by employees.

• The board approved a $35,000 agreement with Melrose Pyrotechnics for the Fourth of July fireworks to be displayed on July 14. Melrose is required by the agreement to obtain the necessary public liability and property damage insurance.

• The board approved a motion allowing attorney John Espar to pursue legal action against Beachwalk. Espar told the board that his attempts to ask the Beachwalk developer to maintain an access road in the development have gone unanswered and unacknowledged. Upon Espar’s recommendation, the board recognized the road as a public nuisance and risk to public safety and approved action to enforce the city’s agreement with the developer to maintain the road and abate the nuisance.

• The board approved a street closure request for the second annual Runnin’ for Prestin 5K run/walk to be held Sept. 21. Anticipated road closures are expected at the following intersections: Lakeshore Drive and Krueger; Krueger and Fogarty; Lakeshore Drive and the entrance to Beachwalk; Washington Park Boulevard and Lake Shore Drive.

• The board agreed to reject all bids submitted for one GMC FNR-Fleet Commercial vehicle for the Michigan City Street Department. The board said the vehicle will be re-bid.

• The board approved a request submitted by Frank Seilheimer, the city’s urban forester, to solicit bids for various contractual landscape services for the city. Seilheimer told the board that the bids have been combined into one contract in the hopes of lowering the city’s cost.


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