October 3, 2005

TCAT Avoids Strike

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TCAT reached an agreement with union workers this weekend, ending contract negotiations which have raised tensions and even fears of strikes since they began more than half a year ago. The United Automobile Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Local 2300 ratified a three-year contract with TCAT management on Saturday, the first contract workers have had since TCAT consolidated in January.

UAW International representative Scott Montani said the details of the agreement would not be released until all of the roughly 80 TCAT workers affected could be notified. Although the ratification meeting and vote were open to all of TCAT’s UAW workers, Montani said that some could not attend the meeting and have not yet been informed of its results.

Montani did say, however, that the ratification does not mean TCAT’s employees are completely satisfied with the contract’s terms.

“It should be seen as a message to TCAT that they have three years to get their funding in line so that employees can be compensated comparably to the employees at other highly utilized Mass Transit Companies like those in Rochester, Binghamton and Syracuse,” Montani wrote in a statement to The Sun.

Still, Montani and Henrik Dullea ’61, a member of TCAT’s board and its chief negotiator for the contract, both described the contract as “fair and equitable.”

“It’s the first contract between TCAT and the UAW, so it’s a very important one,” Dullea said. “We’re very glad to have it done. We wanted to have a good contract.”

He added that TCAT anticipates no changes in its fares due to the contract.

The UAW does not release its vote results, but the contract was ratified by “a comfortable majority,” Monotani said.

The decision comes as a relief to many at Cornell who rely on TCAT for transportation to and within campus.

“We are delighted to hear that there is an agreement. We look forward to TCAT’s continued excellent service,” said Tommy Bruce, vice president for University communications.

Negotiations between TCAT’s unionized employees – including drivers, fuelers and mechanics – and its management have been under way since the company consolidated in January. Before that, the buses were run as a joint venture between Cornell, the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County, leading to a situation in which workers had different pay structures, disciplinary actions and other discrepancies, depending on which one of the three partners had been their previous employer.

Unease between the union and TCAT’s management grew in the past few weeks, leading to some TCAT workers hinting at a strike and prompting Cornell to send an email declaring a contingency plan “in the event of a midday work stoppage” of TCAT service. The UAW rejected a proposed contract Sept. 11 which Dullea described as “very similar” to the proposal that was accepted Saturday. Montani said that “there were some differences that the membership viewed as significant” between the two proposals, but he declined to cite any specifics.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit
Sun City Editor